In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the many signs that are required by NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. I tried to provide some of the reasons and history behind those requirements. In this follow-up article, I will extend the discussion to NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes; NFPA 13R, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies; NFPA 14, Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems; and NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection. All references to these documents are to the 2016 editions unless stated otherwise.
The NFPA 13D standard only has one requirement for a sign and that is for “Multipurpose Piping System.” Before we discuss the requirement for the sign, we need to ensure we fully understand what is a Multipurpose Piping system. The NFPA 13D definition is: “A piping system intended to serve both domestic needs in excess of a single fixture and fire protection needs from one common piping system throughout the dwelling unit(s).” This is not the typical independent sprinkler system most sprinkler contractors are installing. This is a combined domestic water/sprinkler system for the dwelling unit(s). In accordance with Section 6.3.4, when a Multipurpose piping system is installed, a warning sign with minimum 1/4-in. letters is required to be affixed to the main shutoff valve and state the following: “WARNING: The water system for this home supplies fire sprinklers that require certain flows and pressures to fight a fire. Devices that restrict the flow or decrease the pressure or automatically shut off the water to the fire sprinkler system, such as water softeners, filtration systems, and automatic shutoff valves, shall not be added to this system without a review of the fire sprinkler system by a fire protection specialist. Do not remove this sign.” The intent of this sign is to warn the unknowing homeowner or residential contractor about the need to consider the sprinkler system before adding any device to the combined water system.
Section 184.108.40.206.1 requires all control, drain, and test connections be provided with permanently marked weatherproof metal or rigid plastic identification signs. The identification signs need to be secured with corrosion-resistant wire or chain. The control valve signs need to identify the portion of the building served. Systems that have more than one control valve that must be closed to work on a system or space are required to have a sign referring to the existence and location of the other valves. This requirement is like the NFPA 13 requirement. There is annex language that explains the intent of the requirement for the sign to identify the portion of the building served; “…is to provide assistance in determining the area of a building served by a particular control valve.” There is a warning in the annex about systems with more than one control valve; “Care should be taken to ensure that all water supplies are isolated before work begins. Work on systems by shutting one valve and not knowing about another valve can result in unexpected water damage.”
Section 6.11.3 has a requirement for signage for the fire department connections. Each fire department connection to sprinkler systems needs to be designated by a sign having raised or engraved letters at least 1-in. in height on a plate or fitting reading the type of systems served. The reason behind this sign should be obvious but its importance should not be overlooked.
While not necessarily classified as a sign, Section 11.1.7 requires a list of the sprinklers installed in the property to be posted in the spare sprinkler cabinet. This requirement is like the NFPA 13 requirement. The list needs to include the following information; the Sprinkler Identification Number (SIN) or the manufacturer, model, orifice, deflector type, thermal sensitivity, and pressure rating, general description, quantity of each type to be contained in the cabinet, and issue or revision date of the list.
Section 4.10 requires that all signs required by NFPA 14 be permanently marked and be constructed of weather-resistant metal or rigid plastic materials.
Section 6.3.8 has numerous requirements for signs. It requires that all main and sectional system control valves, including water supply control valves be equipped with a sign indicating the portion of the system that is controlled by the valve. In addition, all control, drain, and test connection valves be provided with signs indicating their purpose. Where sprinkler system piping supplied by a combined system is supplied by more than one standpipe (“loop” or “dual feed” design), a sign needs to be located at each dual or multiple feed connection to the combination system standpipe to indicate that to isolate the sprinkler system served by the control valve, an additional control valve or valves at other standpipes must be shut off. The sign must also identify the location of the additional control valves. Where a main or sectional system control valve is in a closed room or concealed space, the location of the valve needs to be indicated by a sign in an approved location on the outside of the door or near the opening to the concealed space. Where hose connections are not located in exit stairways, signs must be provided in accordance with NFPA 170, Standard for Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols, to identify the location of the hose connection in an approved manner. Valve cabinets, where provided, need to be marked to indicate the contents. Lettering is to be red with a white background and be 21/2 in. in height. Annex section 220.127.116.11 suggested that it might be necessary to mount hose connections signs parallel, perpendicular, or at an angle to the plane of the mounting surface on which the sign is located. The point is that the sign must be readable in an emergency by responding personnel.
Section 6.4.5 has a requirement for signage for the fire department connections. Each fire department connection needs to be designated by a sign with letters at least 1 in. in height that reads “STANDPIPE.” For manual systems, the sign also needs to indicate that the system is manual and that it is either wet or dry. If automatic sprinklers are also supplied by the fire department connection, the sign or combination of signs must indicate both designated services (e.g., “STANDPIPE AND AUTOSPKR” or “AUTOSPKR AND STANDPIPE”). A sign also is need to indicate the pressure required at the inlets to deliver the standpipe system demand. Where a fire department connection services multiple buildings, structures, or locations, a sign must be provided indicating the buildings, structures, or locations served.
Section 6.6 requires all required signs must be secured to a device or the building wall with corrosion-resistant chains or fasteners.
Where a fire pump is provided, Section 6.7 requires a sign at the pump indicating the minimum pressure and flow required at the pump discharge flange to meet the system demand.
Section 6.8 requires a Hydraulic Design Information Sign. The installing contractor needs to provide a sign identifying the basis of the system design. The sign is to be located at the water supply control valve for automatic or semiautomatic standpipe systems and at an approved location for manual systems. The sign needs to indicate the location of the two hydraulically most remote hose connections, the design flow rate for the connections, the design residual inlet and outlet pressures for the connections, the design static pressure, the design system demand (i.e., flow and residual pressure) at the system control valve or at the pump discharge flange where a pump is installed, and at each fire department connection.
Section 11.9 requires at system acceptance, the installation of signs required by this standard be verified.
Section 10.1.2.5.2 has a requirement for electrical fire pumps systems when multiple pumps serve different areas or portions of the facility, an appropriate sign must be conspicuously attached to each controller indicating the area, zone, or portion of the system served by that pump or pump controller.
Section 11.2.4 requires a method so diesel fuel tanks are not overfilled. One method that is allowed is installation of a permanent sign at the fill point with the tank calibration chart and instructions about the filling procedure, which includes having the person performing the fill operation determine how full the tank is prior to filling and calculate the quantity of fuel (in gallons or liters) that it will take to get the tank to 90 percent of the tank’s capacity. Where climatic conditions are such that the sign could be obscured by ice or snow, weathered beyond readability, or otherwise rendered unreadable, the procedures and chart can be in an office window, lock box, or other location accessible to the person performing the filling of the tank. Section 18.104.22.168.2 has the same requirement as Section 10.1.2.5.2 except this requirement applies to a diesel fire pump system.
In summary, the installation of signs is often ignored or thought of as not important. However, the requirements and need for signs is clear. Failure to provide the required signage could put the installing contractor in a liable situation. Additionally, NFPA 25 requires that many of the required signs be checked during the required inspections and if missing, they need to be replaced. No matter what type of system you are installing, make sure you follow all the requirements for proper signage. Remember – “Here’s your sign!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Denhardt, P.E., is quality control manager for Strickland Fire Protection, Forrestville, Maryland. He has a bachelor of science degree in fire protection engineering from the University of Maryland, holds NICET Level III certificates in automatic sprinkler system layout and inspection & testing of water–based system layout, and is a registered P.E. in numerous states. He is a member of the NFPA 13 Sprinkler Discharge Committee, AFSA, NFPA, and is an SFPE fellow.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Part 1 of this article appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Sprinkler Age.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The article and its content is not a Formal Interpretation issued pursuant to NFPA Regulations. Any opinion expressed is the personal opinion of the author and presenter and does not necessarily represent the official position of the NFPA and its Technical Committee.