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Strengthen the Fire Sprinkler System

Strengthen the Fire Sprinkler System

Many commercial property owners believe that as long as the roof and walls of their building are strong, their building is safe from potential damage that may be caused by an earthquake. The reality is that buildings have more vulnerability during seismic activity than just the roof and walls.

Here are a few details about buildings and earthquakes that commercial property owners and property management staff should consider, especially on the West Coast:

  • An commercial building built more than 10 years ago, regardless of the method used, probably could benefit from a seismic retrofit.
  • Unreinforced masonry buildings collapse in earthquakes more than all other construction methods combined.
  • Damages and loss due to earthquakes occur primarily after the tremors have stopped.
  • Loss that occurs through flooding caused by broken sprinkler pipes can often be avoided.
  • Lenders and insurance companies assign a PML rating to calculate the likelihood of loss in light of the mitigation measures in place.

The rocking and rolling that occurs during an earthquake or seismic tremors certainly tests the strength of a building, including the building’s sprinkler system and water pipes.  Often water pipes can withstand smaller tremors with no damage, however there is always the risk that they will break, especially when a strong earthquake occurs.  When the pipes break, the building’s interior is sure to flood, potentially causing a great deal of additional damage.  Sprinkler piping is heavy and positioned overhead; there is always a risk that the sprinkler pipes will fall during any seismic activity, causing injury to the tenants and further damages to the building.  Because the potential hazards are great, any building that is going through an evaluation for seismic retrofitting should also have the fire sprinkler bracing and anchorage examined at the same time.

 An complete evaluation for seismic retrofitting should include an inspection and verification of the following:

  • steel bracing frames on concrete tilt-up walls
  • continuity ties and roof-to-wall connections on un-reinforced masonry
  • roof-to-wall anchors
  • additional shear walls
  • wall strengthening
  • drag lines
  • bracing for hanging equipment
  • protection of supply lines or storage tanks
  • bracing for fire sprinklers and water pipes

The destruction caused by an earthquake can happen inside, outside or beneath the building.  Vertical pipes running between stories can break, as can the hangers that support the weight of the pipes running along ceilings.  During a seismic retrofit evaluation, each joint and coupling must be inspected to verify that it is adequately anchored.

Fire sprinkler systems are lifesaving features in a building and therefore they have their own rules and building codes for spacing, strength and location, over and above the requirements for ordinary plumbing pipes. Most of the time, fire sprinklers may never even be used, however they are required to be in place and kept in working order in case of an unexpected fire.   Adequate bracing and proper anchorage of fire sprinklers during a seismic retrofitting may include changes to the duct work, location of the pipes and hangers.  These changes to strengthen the fire sprinkler system are essential in order to reduce risk.

Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit conducts thorough evaluations and seismic retrofitting for commercial buildings, including reinforcing bracing and anchorage of existing fire sprinkler systems.  Their team of professional contractors have years of specialized experience; they can conduct repairs and renovations on occupied buildings to improve a PML rating and insurance quotes, and they can develop a plan of action to strengthen the structural integrity of every kind of concrete and masonry building.  If you would like more information regarding seismic retrofitting or reinforcing the fire sprinkler system in your commercial building, call the experts at Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit today!

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034


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