The devastating aftermath of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in 2011.
Across the planet, there have been 2,478 earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or higher from January 2000 to May 2015 and 20 earthquakes magnitude 8.0 or higher. Several recent studies have sought to figure out how earthquakes impact fire sprinkler systems—the results of those studies and a look at a few real world case studies were the subject of a presentation Tuesday afternoon at the NFPA Conference & Expo in Chicago.
“There is some serious research taking place right now because the federal government has realized that at least 70 percent of original building cost is invested in the non-structure, and non-structural building features are usually more fragile than the structure,” said Russell Fleming, who presented alongside Victoria Valentine, both of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.
Overall, the studies concluded that the installment prescriptions in NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, worked well, Fleming said.
The most instructive real world case study was a 2014 Napa, California, earthquake that measured 6.0. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reviewed sprinkler system performance.in the aftermath of the quake, which damaged at least 600 structures.
Overall, FEMA studied 32 buildings with fire sprinkler systems in the Napa earthquake and found five that had sustained sprinkler system damage. The damaged systems had sprinkler breakage resulting in water damage, short hanger failures, and impact with adjacent components. Interaction between sprinkler systems and something else was main cause of damage, Valentine said. The five systems that were damaged resulted in significant water damage because the quake happened early in morning and close to a business district, meaning no employees were on site to shut off water valves, Valentine said.
“Pressurized piping system failures, especially fire sprinkler systems, caused significant damage even though the actual number of piping failures was comparatively small,” according to the FEMA report.
Still “system interaction remains the greatest concern,” Valentine said. “Knowledge on how to shut off a system is also needed.”
To view a pdf of today’s presentation, visit nfpa.org/conference.
Russell Fleming presenting alongside Victoria Valentine, both of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, at the 2015 NFPA Conference & Expo in Chicago.