Myth 3: When the sprinkler system goes off the whole building will get flooded with water. Once again, no, no and NO! The last component in your sprinkler system, the part where the water is aimed at the fire, is the sprinkler head. Although your sprinkler system will probably have dozens of sprinkler heads, each head can only activate individually all by its littlesprinkler-head self. A sprinkler head is a loner, not a groupie, and really doesn’t care what the sprinkler head across the room is doing. They discharge one at a time, 99.9 percent of the time only when they should, and in most cases water discharge from a single sprinkler head extinguishes a fire.
Myth 4: Sprinkler heads spray super-heated steam scalding everything in its path. You’re killin’ me Smalls! The temperature of the water in sprinkler piping will range from just above freezing to perhaps hotshower temperature. If the water in your sprinkler piping has begun boiling and making steam, you and your distillery have more serious problems that are not related to anything I can help with.
Myth 5: Sprinkler systems can drown occupants in small rooms. You really need to stop trying to find the end of the internet! In the last edition I told you that one cubic foot of volume can contain 7.5 gallons of water. Let’s say your new tiny office is 8 feet by 8 feet with an 8-foot floor-to-ceiling height; barely room enough for a desk, chair, you and the first employee that you’re about to fire as you
caught them making weed-infused gin. During unpleasant conversation and for reasons unexplained, the single sprinkler above your desk goes off, spraying water everywhere, soaking everything in the room. If your tiny office is of water-tight submarine construction, and trust me it’s not, more than two hours will go by before your office is filled to a depth where a very small person will have to begin treading water. There’s a good chance two hours will be long enough to open the damn door and go shut off the sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems are not demonic, and I’m going to tell you they really are good for you; not like fruits, vegetables and yoga, but still good, and I hope you never get to really appreciate yours.
Unlucky 13 There are three water-based sprinkler systems recognized by the building and fire codes, and like most things in the code world they are identified mysteriously, intended to support the mystical and make code people like me look intelligent. The first two systems will never be appropriate for your distillery, so other than to make you aware of their identifiers and basic abilities they need no further discussion. If you receive a proposal from a sprinkler company to install an NFPA 13-D or an NFPA 13-R system in your distillery, throw the proposal into the shredder along with the contact information of the company that tried to sell that system to you. 13-D and 13-R systems are only for specific residential occupancies, and despite the fact that you sometimes sleep atop the fermenters to stay warm, your distillery is not a residence. The third type of sprinkler system is the one you need to know about and consider — the sprinkler
system of sprinkler systems, the Hercules of fire suppression, often referred to as a “commercial” system, but identified by the codes as a “13” system. What does the 13 stand for? Who knows? Thirteen is an unlucky number, and having a fire in your distillery is unlucky. Just go with it so we can talk about system details. As learned from past lessons you already know your sprinkler system needs a large reliable water supply. After the water supply your sprinkler system needs ways to control the massive flow of water that’s available, direct that water to the point of a fire emergency and deliver the water in a timely and reliable manner. This will extinguish the fire while simultaneously saving property and, if necessary, lives. Therein, the use of the word “lives” tells us the major difference between the three sprinkler systems: Only the 13 system is designed and installed with the recognized intent of being able to save both property and lives. The 13-D and 13-R systems are designed and intended only to provide additional time for the occupants of a building to exit the structure in a fire emergency, and afterwards the building can be reduced to charred remains when everyone is outside. Now that you know which system is “right” let’s talk about some of its more important details. To keep our sprinkler system scenario simple, we’re going to say that your water supply is the reliable municipal water company, and the water company has installed a massive 8-inch steel pipe into an always-above-freezing “sprinkler room” in your distillery. This water supply scenario takes us away from having to talk about fire pumps, which we’ll save for the future. The “always-above-freezing” comment is important, as a frozen water supply does some unfortunate things: First
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