Facts, Fallacies and Frequently Asked Questions

Fallacy Fact
The sprinkler rules are written by the ASIB. The sprinkler rules are based on internationally accepted codes and standards and are adapted for South African building construction techniques and climatic conditions. The current rules are jointly approved by a committee and are, therefore, acceptable to many international bodies.
Sprinklers cause water damage. A sprinkler system will deposit about 10% of the water the fire brigade would use on the same sized fire. Due to the rapid response of a sprinkler system under a fire condition, the fire is usually controlled or suppressed at its incipient stage. An average of 3 to 6 sprinklers operate in over 60% of recorded fires within correctly sprinkler protected premises.
All the sprinklers operate when a fire is detected. Each sprinkler is an individual heat sensitive element. It is not unknown to have remote sprinklers operate under a fire condition but this is usually due to excessive roof venting.
Since most fires are put out with less than ten sprinklers I can design to that number operating. The success rate of a sprinkler system with low numbers of sprinklers operating is due to "water decay". A far higher volume of water is discharged during the initial operation of the sprinklers thereby exerting more control. There would be no difference in water requirement if a design were to be completed on a lesser area of operation with a higher design density of discharge than one designed in accordance with the guidelines of the rules.
The liquid in the sprinkler bulb puts the fire out. The sprinkler bulb must be manually broken when a fire breaks out. The sprinkler head is connected to a network of pipes that are normally charged with water and connected to what is deemed as an acceptable source of supply. The liquid is heat sensitive and expands when heated under a fire condition to the extent whereby it cannot be contained. The bulb ruptures and releases the seals thus allowing water to flow from the sprinkler head in a predetermined distribution pattern onto the seat of the fire.
Sprinklers are subject to premature operation! The official failure rate is internationally accepted as one sprinkler in sixteen million.
I can clean painted sprinklers? Sprinklers cannot be cleaned. The sprinkler head is constructed to exacting specifications. Once painted there is no guarantee that the paint will not bind the seals together and prevent or delay it operating. One cause of premature sprinkler operation is when cleaned, the fusible element is scratched which weakens it.
A sprinkler system can be rationally designed or designed to ASIB. A system either is designed to acceptable standards and will work under a fire condition or it will not. ASIB represent the philosophy of good minimum fire protection standards. There is no such thing as an "ASIB sprinkler system" only one approved by the ASIB. ASIB will issue a Clearance Certificate for a sprinkler system that complies with any internationally acceptable and proven standard, including proven rational designs.
Question Answer
What is a Certificate of Competency? The ASIB sets an exam annually for persons within and outside the sprinkler industry. This consists of closed book and open book questions and solving problems relating to hydraulic calculation. The pass mark is 90%. There are less than 65 certificates issued at this stage. This examination is meaningful and we will not lower our pass mark to accommodate those less capable of achieving this requirement that has been in place for over 30 years.
Which Rules Codes or Standards are used for South Africa? The 9 the Edition Rules by the FOC were used between 1954 and 1970.
ASIB 10th Edition Rules were published in South Africa in 1970 and were used between 1970 and 2009.
The SABS 0287 rules were published in 2000, we have only seen two installations to date that have complied with these rules.
The current rules used, The 11th Edition Rules for Automatic Sprinkler Installations, are based on over one-hundred-and-fifty years of fire experience and tests. They are internationally acceptable and are updated in accordance with international standards on an annual basis.
Should I use other Rules for the protection of my premises? A common problem we come up against is the recommendation to clients to use other codes or standards. They simply do not lend themselves fully to South Africa and are seldom used in their entirety. Our building standards are different. We seldom see correct protection installed to an overseas standard but rather the end result is a hybrid system that would not be approved by any authority.
What relationship is "number of sprinklers installed" on the installers listing to my choice of sprinkler installer? During the previous year of listing our inspectors attain knowledge of the installer’s ability to correctly fabricate, install and design sprinklers. This is used as a guide to the rating of the installer. Some installers specialise in "special risks" more so that sprinkler installations, this company would have a low number of sprinklers installed. It is another general guide for the client to assess the type of installer he may require for the job in hand.
Why should I have my sprinkler system inspected? In accordance with SABS 0287 an inspection for a sprinkler system is required every 13 weeks. In terms of the ASIB 10th and 11th Edition, a biannual inspection is required by a suitably qualified person or company. ASIB represents this. To have many inspection authorities or individuals means that the lowest standard will always prevail as this will be seen as "economic". What will happen is that the standards will be eroded rapidly leading to an increase in fire losses. ASIB issues factual reports in order to prevent fire losses.
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