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The Critical Nature of Testing Backflow and Fire Sprinkler System Fire Code Compliance

The Critical Nature of Testing Backflow and Fire Sprinkler System Fire Code Compliance by Brazas Fire 505-889-8999

A typical New Mexico building gets its water from the city water main next to it. The city water’s main supplies all the building’s water needs, including the fire sprinklers. The building’s owner or manager hires a company, like Brazas Fire, to connect to the main and run underground pipes to feed the system.

This sprinkler water comes from the same city source that fills the toilets, sinks, and water fountains in the building.

What does backflow mean?

Backflow happens when water from a building’s plumbing system flows in the opposite direction of where it should. It is dangerous because water that doesn’t move can contaminate plumbing systems and the city’s main water supply.

The American Water Works Association says that backflow problems happen in 5% of homes with backflow sensing systems and even more often in commercial buildings. Also, these problems can be costly. According to a report from the EPA, each backflow cost an average of $14,800 and took almost 500 hours to fix.

Why is it hazardous for sprinkler systems to have backflow?

Backflow in sprinkler systems can be a big problem because a lot of water in a building’s sprinkler system doesn’t move unless the sprinklers are being tested, a fire starts, or a sprinkler line breaks. So, the water can stay in one place, and safety officials don’t want it to flow back into the water main.

For example, if there wasn’t a way to stop it, gravity could quickly push water sitting still in a 10-story building’s sprinkler system back into the water supply, which could cause serious problems.

Every home, office, and other building with a sprinkler system needs a backflow preventer.

Why do I need a backflow preventer, and what is it?

A backflow preventer is a device that keeps water in the sprinkler system and makes sure it only flows from the water main into the sprinkler system.

It’s like a hose bib on your garden hose. The nozzle has a mini-backflow preventer that keeps water from shooting back up into the source and shoots it out the sides. Utility departments use the backflow preventer in commercial buildings to ensure the water stays safe and clean.

How often do backflow systems need to be checked and fixed?

Laws in New Mexico say that backflow preventers must be inspected and tested every year by a licensed fire sprinkler inspector who is also certified to test backflow prevention.

Once your backflow prevention system has been certified by a licensed inspector, it must be approved by your local water utility or public works department. Fire sprinkler inspectors can get certification for backflow prevention from several different agencies.

Why is it important to have my backflow prevention system checked (and fixed if needed)?

  • The state of New Mexico makes it a requirement every year. Not having your backflow prevention system inspected, certified, and fixed is not only against the law, but it also puts your water and your neighbors’ water at serious risk of getting contaminated.
  • Depending on your city, the utility department can shut off the whole water supply to your building or just the domestic water supply (everything but the sprinkler systems) if the backflow isn’t working or you haven’t had an annual inspection and maintenance. This means that the toilets, sinks, and showers won’t work, but the sprinklers will still work to protect you in case of a fire.

If you have questions about backflow, need your annual inspection, or think there might be a problem with your backflow preventer or other parts of your building’s sprinkler system, call the experts at Brazas Fire at 505-889-8999 or fill out our online contact form.