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By Jonathon Hart, P.E.
From the August 2023 Issue

 

From snow in Texas, hurricanes in Florida and smoke-filled orange skies in New York City, extreme and destructive weather events are becoming more commonplace in the United States. These often-tragic events impact communities in many ways—in severe cases leading to loss of life and decimated cities, and in less severe cases resulting in property loss and damage, injury, and general disruption. Amid this risky climate, facility managers should feel a heightened responsibility to ensure their buildings are correctly built and maintained, as this mitigates the risk of loss and disruption. It’s more evident than ever that structures must be able to withstand wind, fire, flooding, and earthquakes. As such, routine inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) is a critical part of any facility manager’s role.

Extreme Weather
(Photo: Adobe Stock / Worldillustrato)

What Is Inspection, Testing And Maintenance?

ITM is a basic part of any program designed to keep fire and life safety systems operating properly. ITM is built on designated codes that outline the actions facility managers must take, in terms of inspection and testing, to ensure their systems are compliant and functioning properly. Examples of these include, but are not limited to, NFPA 72, Fire Alarm and Signaling Code and NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. Local codes and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) might have additional requirements for ITM.

ITM occurs during building inspections, which involve tasks like inspecting sprinkler heads, cleaning dust from smoke detectors, or testing systems to ensure proper function.

While some inspections and tests must be performed manually by a professional, automated inspection and testing is being adopted more widely as technology advances. For example, a sensor on a fire pump housing that records the temperature during testing can replicate the same outcome as a person measuring the temperature manually.

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ITM is also critical for building maintenance, where facility managers or contractors identify issues within a system and make the necessary corrections. Typically, system corrections are reactive measures to a failure, so technicians should address the issue immediately to prevent further damage or risk. Maintenance is also critical as building systems age, as even the highest quality equipment will start to break down with enough usage.

Any external factors that may impact system performance should trigger an inspection or routine maintenance, including occupancy changes, process, or material changes, building modifications, and modifications to the heating system exposing systems to potential freezing.

There’s a clear correlation between routine ITM and resiliency in the face of dangerous weather events. The correct use of codes and standards can create a healthier environment for occupants and the surrounding communities by:

  • Preventing large building fires that could have a negative impact on the environment and the community
  • Following the latest building codes to ensure structural integrity in the case of a natural disaster
  • Keeping the lights on during high-wind storms or other electrical malfunctions through electrical maintenance updates

Training For More Resilient Buildings

The National Climate Assessment in the United States found that heat waves, heavy rainfall, and major hurricanes in the U.S. have not only increased in quantity, but in strength.

Extreme Weather
(Photo: Adobe Stock / Vladslav Ociacia)

 

With that, resilient buildings are no longer a “nice-to-have,” but a fundamental part of building safety for those in any community. Resilient buildings must adapt to and be ready to remain functional while under pressure of both regular and extreme climate events. But in order to meet this goal, facility mangers need to be trained on an evolving fire and life safety landscape.

Prioritizing routine training, alongside ITM, can help facility managers better prepare their buildings for potential disaster. With the proper tools and technology, skilled workers can feel more confident completing their daily tasks while staying on top of things like code changes or new building standards. A recent NFPA survey found that 68% of skilled trade workers feel a desire to work with innovative, non-traditional tools, while another 25% believe technology implemented in their day-to-day job functions would improve accuracy and safety.

Properly and routinely trained skilled trades employees help create more resilient buildings by performing routine ITM activities, staying up to date with new tools, sharing knowledge with coworkers, and remaining an active learner in their field. Not only will the implementation of technology increase a skilled trade worker’s education by providing them the ability to knowledge share and access codes and standards on a phone or tablet, but it can also make career opportunities more appealing when innovative tools help increase efficiency and safety for team members.

Disaster resilient buildings have become more of a hot topic as of late, and for good reason. While it’s impossible to design a building that is 100% guaranteed to withstand all natural disasters, maintaining facilities routinely will help buildings stand stronger when faced with extreme weather, in turn creating a safer community for all who live and work in the area.

FIRE PROTECTION

Extreme Weather
(Photo: AGF Manufacturing Product Photo)

AGF Manufacturing updated the 3011A Inspectors Test Valve, a product that sets a new standard for efficiency and innovation in the fire protection industry. The design features an integrated sight glass and relief valve drain access port to combine the best features from the 3011A and 3011ASG valves, plus the new 7000L Pressure Relief Valve.

By integrating the sight glass and drain port into a single fitting, AGF Manufacturing eliminated extra pipe fittings and the need for a separate sight glass, providing a more streamlined and efficient solution for testing and maintenance of fire protection systems.

Furthermore, the 3011A InspectorsTest Valve will now include the 7000L Pressure Relief Valve. The 7000L offers a lockout feature for hydrostatic testing and is available in 175, 200, 225 and 300 psi.

This combination provides facility executives with a comprehensive and integrated solution for fire protection systems, ensuring optimal maintenance and testing.

Jonathon Hart, P.E.Hart is the Technical Lead for Fire Protection Engineering at NFPA.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at jen@groupc.com.

Facility Executive Magazine