We have worked on a few projects in rural Maine where sprinklers were installed as part of the life safety strategy. Many of our renovation projects used what is called a Maine Life Safety System. This sprinkler system makes installing sprinklers where there is no municipal water supply relatively easy. For new construction projects, we have noted a stiffening of rules governing rural area sprinkler system installation. Those involved in building projects -both new and renovations- in rural areas would do well to understand the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s (OSFM) expectations for sprinkler installations.
I enumerate a couple key issues that have come up recently. I am not a sprinkler system designer, so what follows should not be taken as authoritative regarding sprinkler system design. My intent is to alert designers of issues that must be addressed during building design. Sprinkler systems take up space, and require water and a source of power.
Rural areas often have unreliable single phase power. Power reliability is a key component of sprinkler systems, and sprinkler fire pumps often require three-phase power. Thus, a generator and attention to fire pump choice is necessary.
Rural areas without municipal water will require water to be stored on site. Water storage takes up space. This space needs to be included in the building, or available underground.
Fire pumps need a room of their own. They cannot be located in a room with mechanical, electrical or plumbing equipment. The room must be rated, and typically would need an outside door, or be located off a rated room. On a recent project, that room was about 36 square feet.
Water storage, power supply, back-up power, and a dedicated fire pump room all need to be part of a building’s program. For rural area sprinkler systems, these components can be significant. In addition to our own recent project, we have heard anecdotes about other projects where OSFM requirements were not fully anticipated during design.