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Fort Elementary School Sprinkler System Fails Test


By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 19, 2012

After nearly twenty years, the sprinkler system at the Fort Fairfield Elementary School (FFES) has failed its pressure test. “Nobody is saying if there's a fire that sprinkler system won't come on. But the issue is it has pressure leaks, when it comes on it's going to leak everywhere,” said S.A.D. #20 Superintendent, Marc Gendron.

The sprinkler system at FFES is a dry system. That is, the pipes are pressurized and water is only allowed through when a fire causes the sprinkler heads to be activated. “Everyone thinks dry systems are better because there's no water in them, but apparently wet systems are better because there's less corrosion in the pipes,” said Gendron. “The sprinkler works, but it won't pass inspection.”

Greg Day with the State Fire Marshall's office has worked with the school to give a second opinion and to offer some cost effective solutions to bring the sprinkler system up to spec. “Greg has been great. He sent up an independent engineer to look the sprinkler system over at no charge, he also put us in touch with the right guys to talk to. Ultimately there are two people who are going to make the decision and it's going to be the insurance company and Greg Day.”

Gendron says the reason the sprinkler system failed is the air compressor is running all the time, which means there are leaks in the pipes. “The compressor is supposed to come on only four times a day, ours is coming on every ten minutes.”

Sprinkler systems have to be inspected every five years. “Every five years there's a pressure test; every year they look at it when they come in to do our annual fire extinguisher tagging. When they tag those out they do a visual inspection of the sprinklers, but every five years there's a pressure test.”

After the second inspection by Mr. Day's suggested contractor, Mr. Gendron received a quote of $5,830 to potentially bring the sprinkler up to spec. “We went to every person that supplies this kind of work and this is the best price we could get. That's the best case scenario, then the question is will it be enough to pass the pressure test. We won't know that until they fix the known leaks. If it passes the pressure test, we're safe. If it doesn't pass the pressure test then it's going to be another $20,000 to fix it. After twenty years we should not be putting $26,000 into a sprinkler system that has never been used.”



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