Canadian Underwriter

5 reasons why fire sprinklers fail, and what your clients can do about it

July 6, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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Building renovations are among five common reasons for fire sprinkler failure, according to Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, a partner for ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, in a recent article on

Typical renovation incidents that can cause failure include collisions with construction equipment, or displacement or disturbance of the fire sprinklers, Rodriguez-Zaba wrote in Fire Sprinkler Failures In Buildings: Why They Happen & What To Do.

Other common reasons sprinklers may activate in the absence of a real fire include:

  • Aging parts
  • Incorrectly-placed heating systems that activate sprinklers
  • Vulnerable pipes that freeze and cause sprinkler heads to burst
  • Corrosion

“Accidental sprinkler discharges soak drywall, destroy carpets and textiles, and lead to dangerous mold and mildew growth, which can happen just 24-48 hours after water exposure,” Rodriguez-Zaba wrote for, a news and information website for the firefighting and protection industry. “Prevent worsening damage and the dangerous conditions by contacting a sprinkler repair specialist right away.”

Moreover, fire sprinkler water damage can involve “blackwater,” a mixture of sediments and other contaminants. Blackwater can create a film that smells bad and destroys belongings.

If a fire sprinkler system does go off – even in the absence of a fire – the property manager needs to get everyone out of the area immediately. The client also needs to shut off electrical equipment (including the building’s main power supply) and the main water supply.

“Once it’s safe to re-enter the building, document the scene,” wrote Rodriguez-Zaba. “Use your smartphone to take photos of broken sprinkler heads or anything else you believe may have caused the accidental discharge.”

She also advises clients to take photos of the damage the sprinklers caused to floors, walls, personal belongings, and to contact a restoration specialist, even if the water damage looks minimal.

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1 Comment » for 5 reasons why fire sprinklers fail, and what your clients can do about it
  1. Please try to collect the sprinkler components that should be on the floor below. They can be examined under a microscope to aid in determining the cause of discharge if it is unknown.

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