Why the Law Requires Annual Fire Sprinkler Inspections

There can sometimes be a temptation to think that building safety is a one shot deal. You get a building inspected when you move in and if it all checks out ok, then that is you done and dusted. The truth is though that from both a legal point of view and an ethical point of view, this is very far from the truth.

Under state law, federal law, and most likely the rules of your buildings insurance, you need to get your sprinkler systems tested every year (and ideally every month). The role of a sprinkler system is not to extinguish fires. Rather they are designed to halt the spread of a fire so that when the fire service does show up on the scene they can use normal methods of fighting a fire, because the fire has been contained to a manageable area.

It is the unchecked spread of a fire that often leads to the greatest loss of life and property, and so the first reason why the law requires annual fire sprinkler inspections is largely pragmatic. The link between working fire sprinklers and saving lives and property is clear.

So in the same way that Florida has laws that require people to wear seat belts because the facts are clear that they save lives, the same is true for the maintenance of fire sprinklers, and the fire sprinkler inspectors who make sure they work.

There is actually a whole long book which is snappily titled “NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems” that sets down all the different rules relating to the minutiae of tests and maintenance routines that need to be carried out on sprinkler systems. So you could always:

1/ Buy the book (it currently costs $50.50).
2/ Spend a couple of weeks reading it through.
3/ Try to figure out exactly what is required.

Or you could simply hire a professional who can save you the time, money and energy of that procedure, and get the checks done cheaply and in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.

It is also worth considering that one of the major reasons that the law requires these fire sprinkler inspections is because the United States is a highly litigious society, and it acts to both protect the local and federal government from lawsuits in the event of fires, and also to protect the businesses (though sometimes reluctantly) in the event of property damage or loss of life on their premises.

If someone dies in your building and the sprinkler system wasn’t working, then as well as being a tragedy for that individual and their family. You can also reasonably expect to face both criminal and civil charges.

So this is not a subject to be taken lightly.

Sprinkler systems do break down, get clogged or have problems like any other piece of mechanical equipment. So you should really be getting them checked every month to make sure everything works properly.

If there is a fire, you will be glad you did.

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