TESTING WATER FLOW AND ARE YOU QUALIFIED
Last month I spoke at a meeting to a small group of alarm technicians and denounced the idea of "electrically" testing water flow switches. In my opinion you are not testing the water flow switch, you are testing the wiring to the switch. I believe the intent of the code, and what the subscriber or building owner is believing or trusting that you are doing is testing the water flow switch. Over the years I have had to replace many switches that had failed to operate, sometimes we found piping that had tuberculation (a build up that eventually plugs the pipe, but, at the beginning can render the water flow switch inoperable) and/or Microbiologically Induced Corrosion (MIC).
We took over a job that had been serviced by a large fire alarm company for many years, a 2" pipe that had a flow switch mounted on it had to be replaced because it was completely blocked by tubercultion &/or MIC and there was no (zero) water flow through it, yet the other company signed off on the water flow switch that it was operating properly. During my spiel I was told by one of the tech's that he stands behind electrically testing and no more than that is needed. This seems to be a general operating procedure of our industry in this area (NYC) and I see it as both morally and ethically wrong. I believe we all know that the person signing our contract doesn't fully understand what is being said, that they believe the flow switch is being tested for full functionality, not just that it is connected to a working circuit. There is an overlap in NYC for the need of an alarm Tech and a Licensed Fire Suppression Contractor (FSC) to do the test. NYC requires that any valves on a suppression system (sprinkler or standpipe) be operated by an FSC with a Certificate of Fitness (CoF) issued by the FDNY, so both the alarm company and a sprinkler vendor (FSC) must jointly do the test. I get a lot of comments that the sprinkler contractor is not needed, mechanically true, it isn't hard to open and close a valve, but, as I was told by the FDNY, it is illegal (or was, maybe it has changed?).
Alarm companies are quick to say we need the elevator company or HVAC contractor on site for inspection and testing, why not include a sprinkler company?
I believe anyone doing electrically testing of flow switches is morally and ethically wrong by signing off on it as having been tested, the "switch" was NOT tested as to it intended purpose and function.
We pull pull stations, we check to see that fans actually shut down, elevators actually recall, yet many don't check to see that a water flow switch actually detects and operates for water flow?
I also believe that most alarm techs that go to FDNY and state that have the experience and are truly qualified to get a City Wide Certificate of Fitness for sprinkler and/or standpipe is doing so falsely. Part of the requirement for the CoF is a letter from the employer attesting that the individual is qualified and has the experience for a CoF, how can a company that isn't in the suppression systems business make such a claim?
Acme Fire Protection Inc
Don't any of the regulatory laboratories specify how water flow testing is to be performed? What are the industry standards for the testing? The Fire All in One covers fire alarm services, including inspection. The Fire Suppression All in One covers the suppression equipment, and that would include the sprinkler system and pipes. I'm hoping Robert Kleinman from AFA answers this for me.