Listed Antifreeze - September 2020

by Grant Lobdell

According to the 2020 edition of National Fire Protection Association 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection Systems, “Except as permitted by 5.3.4.4.1 and 5.3.4.4.3, all antifreeze systems shall utilize listed antifreeze solutions.”  The exceptions in 5.3.4.4.1 and 5.3.4.4.3 are for systems installed prior to September 30, 2012, and systems utilizing premixed antifreeze solutions exceeding 30% (by volume) propylene glycol that are listed specifically for use with the installed ESFR sprinklers.  The exception regarding systems installed prior to September 30, 2012 ends September 30,2022.  At that time, any system utilizing premixed antifreeze solutions that are not listed must be drained and installed with a listed alternative.  If a listed antifreeze solution is not available or the listed antifreeze solutions that are available are not sufficient for the application, alternative means of freeze protection, such as dry sprinklers or heat tracing, must be used.

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Making Sense of %, ppm, ppb, and ppt - September 2020

by Grant Lobdell

Dyne Fire Protection recently announced the availability of fluorine analysis for firefighting foam concentrates.  Closely related to PFAS content, fluorine analysis via combustion ion chromatography is capable of recovering PFAS missed by other analytical techniques.  Regulations have already begun to be written with this analysis in mind.  For example, Clean Production Action’s eco-label certification, GreenScreen CertifiedTM, defines a PFAS free foam as having < 1 ppm total organic fluorine as measured by combustion ion chromatography.   In contrast, Aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) typically contains about 1% organic fluorine from fluorinated surfactants.  Given that 1% = 10,000 ppm, AFFF can have as much as 10,000x the amount of organic fluorine than its fluorine free counter parts!

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Synthetic Fluorine Free Foam (SFFF) Expansion Ratio - August 2020

by Grant Lobdell

During the second draft meeting for the upcoming 2021 edition of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard for Low-, Medium- and High-Expansion Foam (NFPA 11), the technical committee approved the addition of the following in Annex A 4.3.1.1(second revision no. 51):

“The foam concentrate proportioning equipment and discharge devices produce finished foam with certain qualities, including expansion ratio and 25 percent drainage time.  The testing conducted by the Fire Protection Research Foundation showed that expansion ratios of 7 to 10 were critical for SFFFs’ ability to extinguish fires.”

The testing conducted by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, which was compiled into a research paper titled Evaluation of the fire protection effectiveness of fluorine free firefighting foams, can be reviewed online for free at nfpa.org.

Why is SFFF expected to have a higher expansion ratio than AFFF?

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Sprinkler Testing Frequency Changes - August 2020

by Grant Lobdell

The 2020 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, has been out for some time now.  While most jurisdictions have yet to adopt this edition, it is still important to recognize and understand the changes made in this revision regarding the frequency of field sprinkler testing.

Dry Sprinklers

In previous editions of NFPA 25, dry sprinklers were expected to be replaced or tested 10 years after installation.  If the sprinklers were tested in lieu of replacement and were found to still have adequate performance, they could be left in service but they would then need to be tested again every 10 years thereafter. 

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Dry Chemical Testing Frequency - July 2020

by Grant Lobdell

The current, 2018 edition of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers requires dry chemical agent to be thoroughly checked for proper type, contamination, and condition before reuse (7.8.3.4.3).

Is a visual inspection thorough enough?

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PFAS and Firefighting Foam - July 2020

by Grant Lobdell

PFAS is an acronym for a group of man-made per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. While a lot of attention has been given to a couple of molecules within this group such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, Figure 1) and PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, Figure 2), this group of substances consists of thousands of known molecules.

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Sprinklers Exposed to Harsh Environments- June 2020

by Grant Lobdell

The current NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, 2020 Edition, requires testing or replacement of sprinklers exposed to harsh environments on a 5-year basis (5.3.1.1.2)

What is a harsh environment?

The term harsh environment is not formally defined (Chapter 3 Definitions) by NFPA 25.  Examples of harsh environments are, however, provided in the Annex of the standard:

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Alternatives to Discharging Foam - June 2020

by Joan Leedy, Technical Director

The NFPA 11 Standard for Low-, Medium- and High-Expansion Foam, 2016 Edition, requires discharge testing including confirming the concentration of the foam solution during the commissioning a new foam system (Section 11.6.2). This would mean that all systems need to be flow tested and foam discharged. However, due to the environmental concern with foam discharges, section 11.6.3 allows for “listed or approved” methods that do not require foam discharge.

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Dry Chemical Composition- May 2020

by Grant Lobdell

According to the current, 2018 edition of the National Fire Protection Association 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, “Only those agents specified on the nameplate or agents proven to have equal chemical composition, physical characteristics, and fire-extinguishing capabilities should be used.” (7.8.3.1) Furthermore, dry chemical agent can only be re-used if it has been “thoroughly checked for the proper type, contamination, and condition.” (7.8.3.3.1, 7.8.3.4.2).  An understanding of and the reason behind the chemical composition of the various types of dry chemical agents leads to a better understanding of these requirements.

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Examples of Detrimental Loading and/or Corrosion Volume 2 - May 2020

by Grant Lobdell

The current, 2020 Edition of NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems states that any sprinkler that shows signs of loading and/or corrosion detrimental to the sprinkler performance shall be replaced. (5.2.1.1.1) By simply looking at the sprinkler, it can be difficult to know when loading and/or corrosion is detrimental to the performance. This document has been put together with some real-life examples of loaded and/or corroded sprinklers that have response times outside the acceptable range as defined by NFPA 25 to help those trying to make this call. If there continues to be any doubts about a sprinkler’s performance, it should be tested to evaluate those concerns, or it should be replaced.

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Dry Chemical Testing - April 2020

by Grant Lobdell

According to the current, 2018 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, prior to reuse, dry chemical shall be thoroughly checked for proper type, contamination, and condition (7.8.3.4.2).  Dry chemical found to be the wrong type or contaminated cannot be reused (7.8.3.3.2).

Due to the limitations of visual inspections, Dyne Fire Protection Labs offers a thorough chemical analysis to fulfill these requirements.  This analysis currently involves verifying the concentration (% by mass) of the following:

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Foam Quality - April 2020

by Grant Lobdell

According to section 12.6.2 of the current, 2016 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 11 Standard for Low-, Medium-, and High-Expansion Foam, “Samples of [foam] concentrates shall be sent to the manufacturer or qualified laboratory for quality condition testing.”

Expansion and Drain Time

The 2016 edition of NFPA 11 does not contain a formal definition for foam quality.  However, according to the seventh edition of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) 162 Foam Equipment and Liquid Concentrates, a standard used in the listing of foam concentrates, low expansion foam quality is defined as “a measure of a foam’s physical characteristics, expressed as the foam’s: a) 25 percent drain time, and b) Expansion value”.  Based on this definition, at minimum, the quality condition testing required in section 12.6.2 of the 2016 edition of NFPA 11 must evaluate a foam’s expansion ratio and drainage time.  The foam concentrate is passed through a test nozzle and the resulting expanded foam solution is collected and measured to determine the expansion ratio.  The drainage of the resulting expanded solution is also monitored and the time at which 25% (low expansion foam concentrate)/50% (high expansion foam concentrates) of the expanded foam has returned to an unexpanded solution is recorded as the drainage time.

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How to Handle Multiple Types of Sprinklers in Your Sampling Area - March 2020

According to the current, 2020 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, a representative sample of sprinklers for the field service testing shall consist of a minimum of not less than four sprinklers or one percent of the number of  sprinklers per individual sprinkler sample, whichever is greater (5.3.1.2).

Sample Area

NFPA 25 does not define what an individual sprinkler sample should be.  The area represented by a sprinkler sample set should be defined by the property owner or their designated representative.  For example, the building owner or designated representative could define their sample area by each sprinkler system.  However, it is also just as valid to expand the sampling area and define it as the entire building even if made up of multiple systems.  Likewise, the building owner or designated representative could certainly narrow the sample area and define it by environment, by floor, or even by room if they so choose.  Obviously, narrowing the sample size down too far can be unreasonable.  For instance, sampling and testing four sprinklers from a room with only six sprinklers to begin with wouldn’t make much sense.  In this scenario, it would be more cost effective just to replace all six sprinklers.

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NFPA Standards Update - March 2020

NFPA 11 Standard for Low-, Medium- and High-Expansion Foam

The second draft meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia on February 3 and 4th. The second draft of the standard will be posted to the NFPA website on 7/30/2020. The second draft of the next revision includes Synthetic Fluorine Free Foams (SFFF); and rolling NFPA 16 – Standard for the Installation of Foam-Water Sprinkler and Foam-Water Spray Systems into NFPA 11; in addition to other revisions. Look for the release of the 2021 edition of NFPA 11 on 11/01/2020.

NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems

NFPA 25 is currently open for public comment. Submit comments on the NFPA website up until June 30,2020.

©Dyne Fire Protection Labs 2020

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What to Do Before Sampling Sprinklers for the Field Service Test - February 2020

by Grant Lobdell

According to the current, 2020 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, only those sprinklers that have passed a visual inspection should be sent in for the field service test (A.5.3.1.1).

Visual Inspection

According to Section 5.2.1.1 of the 2020 edition of NFPA 25, the visual inspection should be a floor level inspection.  Any sprinkler that shows signs of the following shall be replaced:

  • Leakage
  • Corrosion detrimental to sprinkler performance
  • Physical Damage
  • Loss of fluid in the glass bulb heat-responsive element
  • Loading detrimental to sprinkler performance
  • Paint other than that applied by the sprinkler manufacturer

Note that while there is no acceptable amount of paint, there is some allowable amount of corrosion and/or loading.  Only when the loading and/or corrosion is deemed detrimental does it trigger replacement.  If you aren’t sure if the corrosion and/or loading is enough to be detrimental, it is also best to error on the side of caution when it comes to fire safety.  Either replace those sprinklers you are unsure about or get them tested.

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Things to Consider When Foam Sampling - February 2020

by Grant Lobdell

According to the current, 2016 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 11 Standard for Low-, Medium, and High-Expansion Foam, samples of foam concentrates are to be sent to a laboratory for quality conditioning testing at least annually.  Not much is given, however, as to how this sample is to be obtained.  As a result, we have put together a few things to consider when taking your foam concentrate sample.

Top and Bottom Sample

Most people take just one foam concentrate sample from each of their tanks, drawn from wherever it is easiest to obtain a sample on their system, to send in for the quality conditioning testing.  I ask that you consider your tank may not be homogenous throughout, especially those tanks that hold several hundreds to thousands of gallons of foam concentrate.  The top of the tank may be very different from the bottom.  Often, any dilution, whether that be due to human error or unavoidable condensation, typically settles at the top of the tank.  Furthermore, if you’ve topped off your tank at some point, it is very likely that the foam concentrate at the top will be slightly different than the foam concentrate at the bottom even if they are from the same lot to begin with. This is simply due to differing storage conditions throughout their life.  Finally, also note that it is possible for some ingredients in the foam concentrate to settle out of solution.  This typically occurs when the product is stored outside of the manufacturer’s recommended storage conditions.  If this has occurred, ingredients less dense than water will settle on the top of the tank and the ingredients denser than water will settle at the bottom.

By only taking one sample isolated from either the top or bottom, you may not be getting the whole picture.  The sample may not be representative of the whole tank.  To get a better picture of the tank as whole, consider taking both a top and bottom sample.

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Dry Chemical Agent Testing - January 2020

By Grant Lobdell

According to the 2018 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, only dry chemical agents “specified on the nameplate or agents proven to have equal chemical composition, physical characteristics, and fire-extinguishing capabilities shall be used.” (7.8.3.1) Furthermore, “prior to re-use, the dry chemical shall be thoroughly checked for the proper type, contamination, and condition.” (7.8.3.4.1)

Determining Dry Chemical Type, Contamination and Condition

For many years, contractors have determined a dry chemical’s type, contamination and condition visually.  The color is often an indicator of the type where ABC agent is typically yellow, BC agent is typically white or blue, and purple-K agent is usually purple.  The contamination and condition of the agent is typically verified by looking for notable clumps in the fine powder, known as caking, which would indicate moisture contamination.  The problem with these visual examinations is twofold:

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Premature Sprinkler Activation - November 2019

Premature sprinkler activation can be a frustrating and costly situation.  At Dyne Fire Protection Labs, we often get inquiries from exasperated individuals who have just experienced premature sprinkler activation (and the water damage associated with it) about whether or not Dyne can determine the exact cause of the activation.  Unfortunately, we cannot.  Dyne Fire Protection Labs’ well known field service testing is only designed to fulfill NPFA 25’s periodical testing requirements, specifically section 5.3.1.1 of the current, 2020 edition of NFPA 25.  As stated in the Annex of the 2020 edition of NFPA 25, section A.5.3.1.1, this routine periodical testing is designed to determine thermal sensitivity (adequate response time) and functionality (waterway clears).  Each sprinkler sent in for this testing is plunged into an oven and the time at which the sprinkler activates is monitored.  The requirement is that the activation time, the time at which the release mechanism activates and the waterway clears, is such that the resulting Response Time Index (RTI) is less than the RTI requirements established by the 2020 edition of NFPA 25.  The longer it takes for a sprinkler to activate, the higher the RTI value.  For more information on RTI calculations and the current requirements, please review Dyne’s technical article titled Sprinkler Sensitivity Requirements published in April 2019. Note that the sensitivity requirements have no minimum.  While a sprinkler that activates much quicker than expected can be a warning sign for potential premature activation, there would be no failure for a sprinkler that activates quicker than expected during the routine field service testing.

What kind of testing can be done to determine if a sprinkler may activate prematurely?

If a sprinkler has truly activated, the release mechanism has responded to a temperature lower than its listing.  Therefore, the testing to identify sprinklers that may activate prematurely should be designed to determine the temperature of activation.  This is different than the routine field service testing described in NFPA 25 which determines the time a sprinkler takes to go off at one specific temperature.

If you have experienced a sprinkler that has activated prematurely, you may be concerned the other sprinklers in the area may also activate prematurely and want to verify the activation temperature.  Unfortunately, Dyne does not advertise activation temperature testing as part of our normal list of services.  To accurately determine the activation temperature, the rate of temperature increase must be very gradual.  This means the time to test each sprinkler for activation temperature can take several hours.  Since our laboratory specializes in quick turnaround for routine field service testing, utilizing our plunge test oven for several hours can be quite costly and time consuming.  As such we cannot perform such testing under our normal 5 business day turnaround guarantee.  While this testing does not appear on our advertised list of available services, it may still be possible to contract Dyne Fire Protection Labs to perform this work.  Please contact us for more information.

Once a sprinkler has activated prematurely, is there any testing that can be done to determine why?

The activation temperature testing described above is only useful if a sprinkler is suspected of being compromised but it does nothing to determine the reason for sprinklers that have already prematurely activated.  If the sprinkler features a soldered release mechanism and the pieces of the sprinkler post activation can be found and collected, it may be possible for a laboratory to analyze the solder for solder creep and/or corrosion.  Solder creep occurs when a sprinkler is exposed to temperatures above the maximum ceiling temperatures listed in Table 7.2.4.1 of the 2019 edition of NFPA 13:

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Listed or Approved - How to Find and Interpret Foam Concentrate FM Approval listings - October 2019


by Grant Lobdell

According to Chapter 4 of the 2016 edition of NFPA 11 Standard for Low-, Medium-, and High-Expansion Foam, the components of a foam system, including the foam concentrate itself, shall be listed.  Where listings for a component do not exist, the components shall be approved.

What does NFPA mean when it states a component needs to be listed or approved?

NFPA defines the term listed as follows:

Equipment, materials or services included in a list published by an organization that is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction and concerned with evaluation of products or services, that maintains periodic inspection of production of listed equipment or materials or periodic evaluation of services, and whose listing states that either the equipment, materials or service meets appropriate designated standards or has been tested and found suitable for a specified purpose.

Simply put, a listed product or service is one that has been evaluated by a third party to do what it claims.  Furthermore, this third party is also tasked with periodically ensuring continued compliance to ensure no shortcuts in production or service are taken after achieving the listing.

Not all products or services are able to be listed.  To be listed, a standard of acceptance, a document that establishes minimum requirements, must be available to evaluate the product against.  If a standard has not been developed for the specific product or service in question, NFPA states that the product or service must at least be approved. 

NFPA defines approved simply as “acceptable to the authority have jurisdiction.”  Therefore, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), has the ability to approve unlisted products or services for use when needed.  The AHJ can come to a conclusion on acceptance by understanding the acceptance criteria of NFPA or other appropriate standards, the manufacturer’s definitions for proper installation and use, and/or the listing or labeling practices of organizations concerned with product evaluations.

Note that listing criteria does exist for foam concentrates at various 3rd party listing agency[KR1]  and as a result, NFPA 11 requires a listed product to be used.  An approved but not listed product is only allowed when listing criteria is not available.

Why does the 2016 edition of NFPA 11 require listed or approved components?

The 2016 edition of NFPA 11 requires listed or approved components to help ensure adequate performance of components in the fire protection system.  The listing process involves a plethora of testing to come to the conclusion on acceptable performance.  These tests can include but are not limited to the following: proportioning of foam concentrate, hydrostatic testing, corrosion resistance, and fire test performance.  The tests results as a whole help to answer the question, “Will it work?”

How to find the FM Approval listing details?

FM Approvals is an example of an organization that is concerned with the evaluation of products or services.  For information on Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) listings, please reference the following article: How to find an interpret foam concentrate UL listings.  Products or services that are listed by FM Approvals can be found using their free online portal, Approval Guide.  Once logged on (registration is free), there are a variety of ways to search for a product or service on this portal as shown in Figure 1.

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Frequently Asked Sprinkler Questions - September 2019

By John Langteau  

At Dyne Fire Protection Labs, we get many questions from customers who are sending in sprinklers for testing about what’s allowable/acceptable with sprinklers. This article looks to answer the more common questions, using NFPA standards and our own experiences.

Can a loaded sprinkler be cleaned?

According to the current, 2017 edition of NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, sprinklers that have a light coating of dust or debris may be cleaned using compressed air and or a vacuum. A blast of compressed air or vacuum may be used to remove the dust or debris while the sprinkler remains in place. While the cleaning is taking place it is important to not touch or damage the release mechanism of the sprinkler, whether it is a glass bulb or a fusible link. At no time should any chemical cleaning product be used on the sprinkler either liquid or aerosol. It is recommended that any sprinkler that cannot be cleared of detrimental dust or debris shall be replaced (Figure 1).

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Listed or Approved - How to Find and Interpret Foam Concentrate UL Listings - August 2019

According to Chapter 4 of the 2016 edition of NFPA 11 Standard for Low-, Medium-, and High-Expansion Foam, the components of a foam system, including the foam concentrate itself, shall be listed. Where listings for a component do not exist, the components shall be approved.

What does NFPA mean when it states a component needs to be listed or approved?

NFPA defines the term listed as follows:

Equipment, materials or services included in a list published by an organization that is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction and concerned with evaluation of products or services, that maintains periodic inspection of production of listed equipment or materials or periodic evaluation of services, and whose listing states that either the equipment, materials or service meets appropriate designated standards or has been tested and found suitable for a specified purpose.

Simply put, a listed product or service is one that has been evaluated by a third party to do what it claims. Furthermore, this third party is also tasked with periodically ensuring continued compliance to ensure no shortcuts in production or service are taken after achieving the listing.

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Is Your Foam-Water Proportioner Working Properly - July 2019

An in-depth look at NFPA 11 and 25 percent concentration testing and what you can do about it in the field

by Grant Lobdell

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