Routine Maintenance Can Reduce Sprinkler Freeze-ups

Toronto, ON — During harsh Canadian winters, many automatic fire sprinkler systems freeze and rupture. The resulting damage can be both devastating and tragic: loss of life, damage to property, business interruption.

According to Colin Robertson, Risk Control Manager for Ecclesiastical Insurance Canada, there is also the loss of reputation to consider. “When a school is flooded, students and parents worry about ‘losing the year,’” he says. “When a retirement facility is damaged, residents may feel unsafe on the premises. There is a lot at stake and some organizations never fully recover.”

While sprinkler systems are critical to a building’s fire protection plan, they can become a liability. During freezing temperatures, a draft caused by a loose piece of siding or an improperly caulked window can cause a Wet Pipe system — one of the most common types of sprinkler systems — to freeze up. Pipes installed in areas that are difficult to heat, such as attics or floor ducts, are especially vulnerable.

The fact is, sprinkler systems require continuous attention. When neglected, they become a problem during winter months. They also can’t be expected to work properly should a fire occur. “A troubling concern,” says Robertson “is the lack of awareness among property managers and custodial staff. We have seen cases where sprinkler systems are installed in a building without any formal plan for ongoing maintenance.”

Robertson recommends hiring a qualified sprinkler contractor to inspect, maintain and test a system on a regular basis. Custodial staff should also be trained to monitor the system in between inspections. Staff should be able to recognize the signs of a problem— for example, distorted or leaking pipes and damaged insulation—and know how to respond.

Being more informed about sprinkler systems and how they work, and being aware of common seasonal challenges, can go a long way toward protecting property and, most importantly, the people who use it every day.

About Ecclesiastical Insurance

Ecclesiastical Insurance is the insurer of choice for Canada’s faith-based organizations. We also insure retirement homes, private schools, registered charities, non-profit groups and associations, unique and heritage properties and select commercial establishments such as art galleries and museums. The company was established in the United Kingdom in 1887 and opened in Canada in 1972. Ecclesiastical is owned by a charitable trust and is committed to serving the needs of its customers and the larger community. Group profits (other than funds required for business operations) are redistributed for the benefit of faith and charitable initiatives. Ecclesiastical is rated “A” by A.M. Best, and “A-” by Standard and Poor’s.