Fireline Underground

Fireline is a non-potable water system typically designed for private commercial, industrial, institutional and residential projects with demand for fire protection. A fireline system is different from a potable system in that the water is not circulating. It is only used when needed to fight fire. In a general overview of the various components that make up an underground fireline system, you will notice that they are similar to each other, regardless of the type of market demand.

The private portions of fireline installations are installed using a combination of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and local county, city and/or agency standards. Contractors are usually required to have the correct license(s) to install fireline systems. Underground pipeline contractors install underground fireline pipeline to bring the fireline system into a building or above-ground structure. Respectively, fireline sprinkler contractors generally design and do fireline related pipeline work above ground, inside the building or structure.

There are five (5) general components that make up an underground fireline system:

1) Supply and connections
2) Detector check assemblies
3) Underground piping
4) Fire department connections / post indicator valves and
5) Fire hydrants

The water supply for underground fireline systems typically begins with a feed off a municipal water (potable) water pipeline supply. These connections to the public potable water supply are typically made with what is called a "HOT TAP" or "CUT-IN" connection. The "hot" tap, meaning, "live" pressurized water system, will not interrupt the potable system while a cut-in connection requires a temporary shutdown of this pressurized water system. Both connection types and their respective feeds, when made to a municipal system, will be constructed under the requirements or standards of that particular municipality or governing authority.

The feed off the potable system is protected by a single or double detector check valve (DDC). This is where the separation between public and private usually begins, depending on the municipality or where the work is performed. Either a municipality or property owner can maintain Detector checks (DC).

Underground pipeline materials vary depending on the fire department having jurisdiction and their respective standards. The most common fireline pipe materials are made of plastic "PVC" (polyvinyl chloride) and metal "DIP" or ductile iron pipeline. Material will be required to be UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) and /or FM (Factory Mutual Research Corp.) approved for both pipe and fittings used for fireline construction. Additionally, if, for instance, your project is in the City of Los Angeles, the City's Department of Building and Safety Mechanical Testing Laboratory requires further approval. They perform tests and examine ductile iron pipe products to ensure they comply with the applicable Plumbing and/or Mechanical Codes of the City of Los Angeles.

Fire department connections, called "FDC " for short, are metallic, above ground, units and can either be wall-mounted or free standing. FDC's may have one or multiple heads. These heads allow the fire department access to connect their hoses and other accessories, during an event of a fire, so as to increase and/or maintain pressure to the fireline system. A post indicator valve (PIV) is simply what it implies: It is a gate valve inside a metal post that usually stands about 36 to 42 inches tall, and is used to control water supply to various fireline systems for fire protection in large buildings. Most PIV's have a window to indicate whether the valve is "SHUT" or "OPEN" since the valve is concealed within the metal post.

Lastly, fire hydrants, which can be composed of "wet" or "dry" barrel heads, are usually installed outside the perimeter of the building or buildings of a new construction project. Wet barrel fire hydrants are most commonly installed. Fire hydrants vary in size, color, and number of outlets depending on governing jurisdiction requirements and flow required for the building(s) underground fireline system.

Most new construction requires an underground fireline system. And, although it is a non-potable water pipeline system, it is nevertheless important to understand what a fireline system is and how it works. Be sure to contract with a knowledgeable, reputable and licensed contractor that understands the installation process and follows fire authority agency and standard guidelines. This will help ensure the timely, safe and quality-driven construction of an underground fireline system.

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Published on December 31, 2010 | Comments: 0

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