Freeze-up Prevention for Fire Protection Equipment

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February 2nd, 2022

Damage to fire protection equipment during winter weather happens in areas where freezing temperatures are common and where temperatures are typically moderate with freezing temperatures not normally expected (i.e., southern U.S. states or Europe). In fact, areas where freezing temperatures are less common suffer inordinately frequent losses because facilities in these areas haven’t properly prepared for the harsh weather.

Preparing your facility and fire protection equipment for frigid temperatures can help prevent broken water piping, impaired sprinkler systems and sprinkler leakage.

HOUSTON, Feb. 15, 2021 — A highway is closed due to snow and ice in Houston, Texas, the United States, on Feb. 15, 2021. Up to 2.5 million customers were without power in the U.S. state of Texas Monday morning as the state’s power generation capacity is impacted by an ongoing winter storm brought by Arctic blast. (Photo by Chengyue Lao/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Chengyue Lao via Getty Images)

The following is a list of precautions that should be taken to help protect fire protection equipment from freezing:

Before Cold Weather/Freezing Temperatures Arrive:

  • Establish an Emergency Action Plan and educate all the employees associated with this plan as to their responsibilities. Assign personnel to monitor weather conditions and indoor/outdoor temperatures.
  • Maintain at least a minimal staff of employees around the clock during severe winter weather to monitor conditions and take appropriate actions if necessary.
  • Annually, prior to the onset of freezing weather, buildings with wet-pipe sprinkler systems should be inspected to confirm that windows, skylights, doors, ventilators, other openings and closures, blind spaces, unused attics, stair towers, roof houses, and low spaces under buildings do not expose water-filled sprinkler piping to freezing and to verify that adequate heat is available.
  • Check for areas along exterior walls/openings where insulation may be inadequate or missing; provide additional insulation or safe temporary heaters, as needed.
  • Building temperatures should be maintained at a minimum of 40°F (4°C).
  • Place thermometers inside buildings in strategic locations (i.e., near sprinkler piping along perimeter walls/openings and other freeze susceptible areas noted above) to monitor indoor temperatures.
  • Dry-pipe sprinkler systems should be serviced to ensure water is not present in the piping.
    • Maintain dry-pipe valve room/enclosure temperature at a minimum of 40°F (4°C); this should be checked daily during cold weather; enclosures equipped with low temperature alarms should be inspected weekly.
    • Check system piping pitch for condensate drainage to low-point drains and install additional drains as needed.
    • Low points and drum drip drains should be drained after each operation and before the onset of cold weather.
    • Repair air leaks in system piping to prevent dry-pipe valve from tripping if power to air compressor is lost.
  • Gravity and Suction Tanks should be protected from freezing.
    • The temperature of water tanks should not be less than 40°F (4°C).
    • If provided with a heating system, ensure that circulation pumps are working; circulating heaters and piping should be flushed; steam traps and strainers should be overhauled/serviced as needed.
    • The temperature of water in tanks with low temperature alarms connected to a constantly attended location should be inspected and recorded weekly during the heating season.
    • The temperature of water in tanks without low temperature alarms connected to a constantly attended location should be inspected and recorded daily during the heating season.
  • Fire and Booster Pumps should be protected against freeze-up.
    • The temperature in pump rooms/houses with electric motor driven pumps should not be less than 40°F (4°C).
    • The temperature in pump rooms/houses with diesel engine driven pumps should not be less than 70°F (21°C).
    • If the fire pump is fed from an open reservoir, make sure the intake and pipe are below the frost level underground and deep enough in water to prevent ice obstructions.
  • Hydrants should be kept free of snow and ice and protected against mechanical damage so that free access is ensured.
    • Check all hydrants for tightness and repair any leaks.
    • For dry barrel hydrants – if the barrel contains water or ice (presence of water or ice could indicate a faulty drain, a leaky hydrant valve, or high groundwater table), then make the appropriate repair and drain; for high groundwater it may be necessary to plug the drain and pump out the barrel after each use.

During Cold/Freezing Weather:

  • The weather monitor should check weather/temperatures daily and keep Emergency Action Plan personnel aware of conditions.
  • Monitor strategically placed thermometers and turn on temporary heaters as needed; this should be repeated often (every few hours and during non-operating hours; e.g., nights and weekends) during particularly cold or sustained freezing weather.

The above freeze-up precautions for fire protection equipment are in accordance with NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.

See our February 2014 Freeze-up Prevention for Fire Protection Equipment and November 1999: Preparing for Winter Weather article for more details and other suggested winter weather precautions.

If you would like further information regarding the winter weather precautions, please contact Risk Logic Inc.