The Cost of Maintaining Fire Sprinkler Systems and Choosing a Qualified Contractor

The May 2009 issue of Today's Facility Manager featured a well-written, thought provoking article by Rick Stathis titled, "The Importance of Maintenance in a Tough Economy," which is accessible by going to: www.todaysfacilitymanager.com

As the author of the article explains, facility managers are often tempted to delay expensive repairs or even postpone routine maintenance during these trying economic times. The article examines the cost of delaying the resurfacing of a parking lot. An intital bid of $200,000 increases to $260,000 because the price of materials, labor and taxes will continue to rise and the contractor passes these on to the customer.

Fire Sprinkler systems also require regular maintenance. The Industry standard for regular Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of systems is found in NFPA 25. (www.nfpa.org) Most states and localities have adopted NFPA 25 as a standard and legally enforce the maintenance to be performed as part of the Fire Code.

Owners of fire sprinkler systems are responsible for ensuring that their systems are properly maintained, for both Fire Code and Insurance reasons. A large number of Insurance Companies will not recognize or give discounts for fire sprinkler systems if the system is neglected for a period of 3 years and Fire Marshal's can issue fines against owners that do not comply with the Fire Code.

A motel operator may be first inclined to pick up the phone book, look up a fire protection contractor and call the first company listed to perform his sprinkler inspection. Or, he may call all of the companies listed to get the lowest price quoted. This is a rough economy and all businesses are affected, many are struggling to survive and nobody wants cash to go out the door. But there is one lesson we often learn in business: You Get What You Pay For!

I know a motel operator (actually a few, along with a few facility owners) that used the most inexpensive inspection and maintenance company they could locate..after all, there's not much to maintain in a motel, right? WRONG! This operator was never told that his facility had recalled fire sprinklers! To make matters worse, the manufacturer of these sprinklers offered a FREE Replacement Program, at NO COST for SIX YEARS! The motel owner was not informed of the recalled fire sprinklers or the free program! The State Fire Marshal did a routine inspection of the property, noticed the recalled sprinklers and ordered them replaced! This cost the motel owner $25,000! The motel owner later contacted us and asked me to inspect his system for additional deficiencies and I found other components that were NOT being maintained!

Now it is not the motel owners job or specialty to MEASURE competency in contractors, but there are a few things owners can do to locate a good inspection company:

1. Contract with a "FIRE SPRINKLER" company! There are a lot of "Fire Extinguisher" companies out there that claim they can do everything, but if they are unable to install fire sprinklers than they really shouldn't claim they have ability to inspect them.

2. A good contractor will belong to the National Fire Sprinkler Association (www.nfsa.org) or the American Fire Sprinkler Association (www.sprinklernet.org) Contractors pay hundreds of dollars in dues to belong to these organizations because they offer training, product research and development and play an active role in development of the Fire Codes.

3. References! If a property owner calls me for a reference, I'll give him a few! My references will say that I'm reasonably priced and SAVE THEM MONEY! Some will say we fixed problems that were ongoing for years, which resulted in expensive emergency calls with competitors. Others will say we saved them TENS OF THOUSANDS of DOLLARS by identifying recalled sprinkler components when the competition failed to do so! The one thing our customers will NOT say is that we are the CHEAPEST in town.

Remember, PROPER INSPECTION AND MAINTENANCE OF FIRE SPRINKLER SYATEMS SAVES MONEY!

For more information, call me at 937-376-2333.

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