Mitigating the Risks of Leaks in Fire Suppression Systems

Mitigating the Risks of Leaks in Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems are a critical component of building safety, providing a first line of defense against the outbreak of fire.

Like any system, however, these systems are not immune to wear and tear. Leaks can occur over time.

Leaks in fire suppression systems can lead to reduced effectiveness in the event of a fire, increased maintenance costs, and the risk of water damage to property. Regular inspections of these systems by professional leak detection specialists can keep them working properly, ensuring they’re ready in the event of an emergency.

An outdoor fire suppression system shooting water onto yellow pipes.
Fire suppression systems are a critical component of a facility or campus’ safety infrastructure.

Regular Inspections

Regular inspections are the cornerstone of maintaining the integrity of fire suppression systems. According to Control Fire Systems, a leading provider of fire protection equipment, a comprehensive inspection should include a visual examination of all system components, a check for signs of corrosion or damage, and a test of the system's functionality. During these inspections, professionals can identify potential issues before they escalate into major problems. It is recommended that inspections be carried out at least annually, with more frequent checks in environments that are prone to corrosion or where the system is subject to heavy usage.

Acoustic Leak Detection

One of the most effective methods for detecting leaks in fire suppression systems is acoustic leak detection. This technology works by identifying the sound of escaping water or gas within the system's pipes. Acoustic leak detection devices are highly sensitive and can pinpoint the location of a leak with remarkable accuracy. This method is non-invasive, meaning that it can be carried out without disrupting the normal operation of the system. By implementing acoustic leak detection, facility managers can detect leaks early, reducing the risk of system failure and minimizing water damage.

Leak Detection Correlators

Leak detection correlators are another advanced tool for identifying leaks in fire suppression systems. These devices work by analyzing the sound of a leak collected by sensors placed at various points along the system's piping. By comparing the time it takes for the sound to reach each sensor, the correlator can accurately determine the location of the leak. This technology is particularly useful for locating leaks in large or complex systems where traditional methods may be less effective. By using leak detection correlators, maintenance teams can quickly identify and repair leaks, ensuring the system remains in optimal condition.

A sprinkler on a ceiling.
Leaks in fire suppression systems can contribute to non-revenue water loss, which is water that is lost before it reaches the consumer due to leaks, theft, or metering inaccuracies.

Non-Revenue Water Loss

Leaks in fire suppression systems can also contribute to non-revenue water loss, which is water that is lost before it reaches the consumer due to leaks, theft, or metering inaccuracies. In the context of fire suppression, non-revenue water loss can result in increased operational costs and reduced system efficiency. By implementing effective leak detection and repair strategies, organizations can minimize non-revenue water loss, leading to cost savings and improved system reliability.

Best Practices for Leak Mitigation

In addition to regular inspections from companies specializing in the use of advanced leak detection technologies, there are several best practices that can help mitigate the risks of leaks in fire suppression systems:

  1. Proper Installation: Ensuring that the system is installed correctly by qualified professionals is critical in preventing leaks.
  2. Corrosion Protection: Implementing measures to protect against corrosion, such as using corrosion-resistant materials and applying protective coatings, can extend the lifespan of the system and reduce the likelihood of leaks.
  3. Pressure Monitoring: Regularly monitoring the system's pressure can help identify fluctuations that may indicate a leak.
  4. Training and Awareness: Educating staff about the importance of leak detection and encouraging them to report any signs of leaks can aid in early detection and repair.
  5. Emergency Response Plan: Having a plan in place for responding to leaks can minimize damage and ensure a swift return to normal operations.
  6. Valve Exercising: When water system valves stiffen, they can impact flow and pressure with corrosion, rust, and mineral deposits. If left in a static position too long, stiffened valves can become inoperable or incompletely shut off. Exercising your valves regularly can avoid stiffening and the issues it can cause. GPRS can provide valve exercising services to keep every part of your pressurized water system intact.

Leaks in fire suppression systems pose a significant risk to building safety and operational efficiency.

 A GPRS Project Manager inspects a fire hydrant.
Hiring a professional leak detection company like GPRS is the best way to inspect your fire suppression system for leaks that could otherwise leave the system inoperable during emergency situations.

How GPRS Leak Detection Services Protect Fire Suppression Systems

By hiring a professional leak detection company that utilizes advanced leak detection technologies such as acoustic leak detection and leak detection correlators, and adhering to best practices, organizations can effectively mitigate these risks. Not only does this ensure the reliability of the fire suppression system, but it also contributes to cost savings and the prevention of non-revenue water loss.

GPRS Project Managers specialize in all types of leak detection, including the inspection of fire suppression systems. Using commercial acoustic leak detectors in combination with leak detection correlators, we eliminate the need for exploratory digging to find leaks, saving you money and time and causing minimal surface disruption.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why does GPRS typically inspect water systems in the early hours of the morning, or late at night?

Our acoustic listening equipment is highly sensitive and amplifies leaks and other noises which mask leak signals during the day. If we work in urban environments, there is often a significant amount of ambient noise. This noise includes airplanes, traffic, mowers, machinery, and most importantly, people using water. It is up to the Project Manager to determine if night work should be utilized to minimize all other noise to focus on the leak signal.

Can you tell me how big the leak is that you’ve detected?

We determine the size of the leak based on how far the leak signal travels between contact points and the pitch of the tone received. We do not, however, produce formal leak estimations.

Why don’t I see any water at the location you’ve pinpointed as the leak?

Water finds the path of least resistance. Water can run through cracks in subsurface rock or make its way into storm, sanitary, and conduit piping. If the subsurface contains a high volume of sand, it will naturally flow farther down. There is no water visible on the surface in more than 99% of the leaks we locate.