Here are a few questions to ask prior to instructing a company to install a domestic fire sprinkler system:
- Does the company self certify its own installations or is it a member of a third party certification scheme such as FIRAS?
‘FIRAS’ is the certifying authority for domestic fire sprinkler systems. It is UKAS accredited and operates schemes for most areas of fire protection. If a company is FIRAS accredited, then this will provide confidence to specifiers, enforcement authorities, building owners and occupiers that the system has been designed and tested correctly. Ensure that the company is a certified FIRAS contractor and issues a FIRAS certificate on completion of all installations.
- Does the company specialise exclusively in domestic fire sprinkler systems?
This is very important as commercial and domestic fire sprinkler systems have very little in common with each other and installers require very different disciplines. It is important to ensure that the company is experienced with this type of system and not just a plumbing company trying to diversify its operations.
- What sort of staff training does the company provide and does it use sub-contractors?
A fire sprinkler system is usually incorporated into a project as a compensatory feature to meet building control fire safety requirements. Once installed, these systems are then equivalence tested using a test point and calculations. It is essential therefore that it has been installed proficiently and documented meticulously. A badly installed system will lie undetected until the day it is called upon to save live. Ensure the company which you instruct has provided regular on-site training as well as training and registration with the Residential Sprinkler Association or BAFSA.
- Will I get charged extra if I don’t have full drawings in a full downloadable CAD format?
Most companies use your drawings on which to overlay their own design. You may be charged extra if you don’t have them in a downloadable CAD format.
- What pump am I being quoted for?
If you are being quoted for a storage based system it is essential that it incorporates a fire booster set that has been designed for the purpose and not just a pump installed on the tank outlet. A pump associated with a domestic sprinkler system can lay dormant for months or years on end. This will cause the pump to seize up unless it is turned over regularly. It is important to establish that the pump that you are being supplied will automatically turn over at least every month period.
- Dedicated fire supply or combined with the domestic supply?
If any company insists that the sprinkler system can be connected to the town mains water supply via the properties domestic supply rather than utilising a storage system, the following needs to be established: Will the domestic supply be metered? If the answer is yes: You should ask if the installer can guarantee that the domestic water meter will pass at least 100 litres per minute and that the meter manufacturers consider it suitable for use in a fire supply? If the supply is not metered presently, you should ask the installer guarantee that there are no plans by the water undertaker to meter the supply in the future?
- What extra costs could be imposed on me?
It is hard to believe but some companies will carry out an installation by first and second fixing in one trip and then charge extra for a second trip! They may also expect to be provided with parking spaces if the installation is in a town or city. One national installation company in particular is very cheap initially but imposes high cost penalties for return visits and a variety of reasons. Look very closely at the extra costs that could be imposed on you during the course of the contract if the price is low.
- Does the installation include a fire alarm or is it connected to the smoke alarm?
A domestic fire sprinkler system should have an alarm associated with it which includes a sounder on an outside wall according to BS9251. If there is no external sounder associated with the sprinkler system there will be no warning that the sprinkler system has activated if there is no-one on the premises – no-one to turn the sprinkler system off after it has extinguished the fire! If you are being offered a sprinkler system which is connected to a smoke alarm, make sure that there is either an external sounder connected to the smoke alarm system or that the Building Control Officer agrees to the deviation from BS9251.
- Is it a National or local Company?
Some companies will price low in order to get the contract. They may travel long distances in order to carry out the initial part of the installation but will then be reluctant to return to sort out any problems that may occur as the project progresses. If your project is in London or the South East of England why instruct a company from the Midlands to carry out the installation?
Tags: bafsa, BS9251, domestic fire sprinkler system, FIRAS, fire alarm, fire sprinkler system, Residential Sprinkler Association, smoke alarm, storage based system