Inadvertent Discharge of Sprinklers Results in Millions of Dollars in Damages

The sudden release of a sprinkler or other fire protection system under non-fire conditions can cause large financial losses due to water damage and business interruption. The magnitude of the losses depends on multiple factors, such as the use and intrinsic value of the property (e.g., from damage to furnishings and flooring to destruction of electronic data handling equipment); the leak location within the building; the time of day, and the effectiveness of the water flow detection and alarm system. JENSEN HUGHES sprinkler system experts are able to conduct an investigation and perform an analysis to determine the cause(s) of the discharge in support of subrogation or defense litigation.

Inadvertent discharge of sprinkler systems may include:

  • Failure of the thermal element on a sprinkler
  • Spurious detection and release by separate detection system
  • Defective pipe or fitting materials
  • Improper pipe support
  • Freezing or overheating
  • Water hammer during testing operations
  • Accidental or deliberate impact
  • Corrosion; or
  • Inadequate maintenance

Analysis of mechanical failures of pipe and fittings may include laboratory examination of metals or polymers and corrosion by-products. Possible links between a physical event such as recent testing of one or multiple fire pumps and the rupture of a pipe, fitting or sprinkler may not be obvious. An informed engineering analysis may be required to establish the link. JENSEN HUGHES engineers have installed field instrumentation to measure pressure perturbations in piping systems, such as during pump testing, or resulting from cyclic pressure pulsations arising from daily temperature changes.  Failure of the water flow alarms on a sprinkler system may result in undetected water flow into a building for hours, resulting in damages that run into millions of dollars.  Although not necessarily the proximate cause of the discharge, the failure of the water flow alarm directly relates to the magnitude of the loss. Our capabilities include expert analysis of alarm and supervisory devices on sprinkler systems.

JENSEN HUGHES’ engineers have access to in-house laboratory equipment for analysis of component failure mechanisms that can result in non-fire release in the field. This testing can be conducted in our laboratory which is equipped with a plunge test apparatus and sprinkler pressure and thermal activation test rigs. A professionally conducted forensic study with an engineering report based on our expert knowledge of sprinkler systems provides the support needed for subrogation or defense litigation.

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