Flaws in life safety systems are seldom discovered early or fast as major fires are rare occurrences and a faulty life safety system only becomes evident in a post-fire investigation.
Usually, this doesn’t manifest itself if the system is properly installed and regularly maintained thereafter. However, it is also seen that life safety systems may be victims of certain engineering and design errors, which are discussed below.
Failure of Adjacent Sprinkler Systems: An important element in the design of life safety systems is adjacent fire-affected areas and the operation of multiple fire protection systems simultaneously.
This calls for the addition of the water flow rates of such multiple systems and balancing them with the system with the highest-pressure demand. One also needs to ensure that the pressure demand of multiple systems are relatively close. The failure to adopt this principle is often a problem.
Inadequate Water Supply: The water supply must deliver the required amount of water at a certain pressure, even in adverse conditions like a freeze or drought or mechanical problems. As per NFPA guidelines, the suction tank should refill automatically within 8 hours from a source that’s capable of replenishing the required volume of two hours.
It is often seen that the suction source is inadequate and exposes a property to fire hazards without adequate water. Should this be the case, the fire insurer may raise issues and deny a loss claim.
Moreover, the maintenance and/or engineering of the supply source often don’t meet the standards needed to address risks that come with the electric generating station, mostly due to lack of testing and routine maintenance.
The Steam Turbine-Generator is not adequately protected: It is also often seen that the lack of properly designed and professionally installed life safety systems has significantly damaged turbine-generators in industrial plants, leading to plant shut down permanently.
Moreover, oil lines and bearing seal areas aren’t protected by automatic preaction-directional water spray systems and oil flow areas beneath the operating floor of the turbine-generator aren’t covered by automatic sprinklers. This is yet another major problem, discovered only after a forced outage.
The crux of the matter, therefore, is that faulty life safety systems are a complete lose-lose situation. Not only does this expose valuable assets to inadequate protection, but they also lead to much higher insurance premiums throughout the asset’s life. Worse still are gross injury or even death in the worst cases.