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:

read more ...

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:

read more ...

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.

read more ...

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).

read more ...

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.

read more ...

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

read more ...

Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) - June 2019

by Grant Lobdell

All National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) documents reference an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) at some point or another.  For example, per 5.3.1.1 in the current, 2017 edition of NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, “sample sprinklers shall be submitted to a recognized testing laboratory acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction for field service testing.”  To fulfill requirements such as these, a person needs to know what and who their AHJ is.

read more ...

The Shelf Life of Firefighting Foam - May 2019

by Joan Leedy

At Dyne, we are often asked “What is the shelf life of my firefighting foam concentrate?” And the answer is – that depends. There are many factors that can affect shelf life. I will discuss the major ones here.

The Brand and Model of Foam – Though there are some similarities among the foams produced today, none are identical and some formulations will have longer shelf lives than others. Check with the manufacturer of your foam to obtain a shelf life estimate. Manufacturers typically run accelerated aging studies to predict the shelf life of a formulation.

Materials of Construction – The foam manufacturer should be able to provide acceptable materials of construction for storing their respective foam concentrate in order to maximize shelf life. This will include the tank, piping materials, valves, pumps and other surfaces that come in contact with the foam concentrate.

The 2016 edition of the National Fire Protection Association Standard 11 - High, Medium and Low, Expansion Foam also provides recommendations on the materials of construction in contact with firefighting foam concentrate. NFPA 11 recommends that foam concentrate piping and fittings be constructed of brass (red or naval), bronze, stainless steel (304 or 316) or “other material, in accordance with the foam concentrate manufacturer’s certification of compatibility with the foam concentrate and as approved by the AHJ”. Carbon steel piping or fittings is not recommended for use with foam concentrate. See NFPA 11 Section 4.7.

An additional concern with materials of construction can be galvanic corrosion when using dissimilar metals. Dielectric components are recommended to insulate dissimilar metals – see NFPA 11 section 4.7.1.5.

read more ...

Sprinkler Sensitivity Requirements - April 2019

by Grant Lobdell

According to the current, 2017 edition of NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, sprinklers are to be sent in for field service testing on a periodical basis according to 5.3.1.  This field service testing is further defined in the annex of the standard under section A.5.3.1.1 stating that sprinklers should be laboratory tested for sensitivity and functionality, specifically.  While the 2017 edition of NFPA 25 does discuss sensitivity and functionality requirements to some degree, the upcoming 2020 edition of NFPA 25 will have much more defined requirements.*  Note that these requirement changes have already been implemented at Dyne and other sprinkler labs across the country.  For periodical testing purposes, a sprinkler is functional if the waterway clears at 7 PSI.  The periodical sensitivity requirements for a sprinkler will be defined as shown in Table 1.

read more ...