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Sprinkler Systems

The Welsh Assembly has approved a Legislative Competence Order which will require the installation of sprinklers in a wide range of dwellings. From 1 January 2016 all new and converted single familiy dwellings including houses and flats will also have to be protected with approved automatic fire suppression systems.All fire safety legislation is to be repatriated to the Welsh Assembly as are building regulations.

How they work:

All areas of the building to be protected are covered by a grid of pipes with sprinkler heads fitted into them at regular intervals. Water from a tank via pumps or from the service (town) main (if it can give enough flow) fill the pipes. Each sprinkler head operates only when it reaches its predetermined operating temperature and will then spray water on to a fire. The hot gases from a fire are usually enough to make the thermal element in the head operate. Only the sprinklers in the immediate area of the fire open. The others remain closed. This ensures that no water is applied to areas where there is no fire and reduces the amount of water needed. The sprinkler heads are spaced, generally on the ceiling, so that if one or more operate there is always sufficient flow of water. The flow is calculated so that there is always enough to control a fire taking into account the size and construction of the building and the goods stored in it or its use. Sprinkler heads can be placed in enclosed roof spaces and into floor ducts to protect areas where fires can start unnoticed. In a large warehouse sprinklers may be placed within the storage racks as well as the roof. At the point where the water enters the sprinkler system there is a valve. This can be used to shut off the system for maintenance. For safety reasons it is kept locked open and only authorised persons should be able to close it. If a sprinkler head opens and water flows through the valve it lets water into another pipe that caused a mechanical gong to sound. In this way, the sprinkler system generates and alarm at the same time as controlling or extinguishing the fire. It's worth noting that only sprinklers can do this with equipment which operates independently of an electrical supply.

Types of sprinkler:

WET PIPE

These are the most common systems and are used in buildings where there is no risk of freezing. They are quick to react because water is always in the pipes above the sprinkler heads.

DRY PIPE

The pipes are filled with air under pressure at all times and the water is held back by the control valve. When a sprinkler head opens, the drop in air pressure opens the valve and water flows into the pipework and onto the fire. Dry pipe systems are used where wet or alternate systems cannot be used.

ALTERNATE

As the name suggest Alternate systems can have the pipes full of water for the summer and be drained down and filled with air (under pressure) for the winter. This is important for buildings that are not heated.

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