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Fall 2001 Volume 14

Feature Articles

What To Look For

Look for any of the following markings to identify sprinklers covered by this replacement program. The model designation and date may also be stamped on the deflector.

Sprinkler Marking images covered by replacement program

What sprinkler models are involved in this replacement program?

Central Sprinkler Company, an affiliate of Tyco Fire Products, LP, of Pennsylvania has identified the following sprinklers in its replacement program:

  • 33 million “wet” sprinklers with O-ring seals manufactured by Central between 1989 and 2000.
  • Two million “dry” sprinkler heads with O-rings manufactured by Central between the mid 1970s and 2001.
  • 101,000 “on-off” sprinklers in “wet” systems manufactured by Gem Sprinkler Co.
  • 66,000 “dry” sprinklers manufactured by Star Sprinkler., Inc.

News of Central Sprinkler Company’s recent voluntary replacement program hit home when EMC Director of Facilities Harold Capps received a letter from a sprinkler contractor advising him of potential problems at EMC’s home office. “It’s not surprising to learn that our facility is affected by this program,” notes Capps. “After all, this is the third largest sprinkler replacement program in the history of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

The sprinklers at EMC are just a handful of the more than 35 million problematic sprinklers manufactured by Central Sprinkler between 1970 and 2000. They are currently installed in a wide variety of buildings, including houses, apartments, hospitals, day cares, schools, nursing homes, supermarkets, parking garages, warehouses and office buildings. “Your facility is probably home to many of these sprinklers,” warns Capps, whose staff is now surveying all of EMC’s Des Moines complex sprinklers to identify those that need to be replaced to ensure the continued safety of the building and its occupants.

Why are the sprinklers being replaced?

Central Sprinkler initiated the replacement program when it discovered that certain O-ring sprinklers can degrade over time. These sprinkler heads can corrode, or minerals, salts and other contaminants in water can affect the rubber O-ring seals. These factors could cause the sprinkler heads not to activate in a fire. Laboratory testing has indicated that the majority of the sprinklers would operate in a fire situation; however, some required higher water pressure to activate than may be available in particular buildings. To date, Central has received four reports of “wet” O-ring sprinkler heads failing to activate during a fire situation and nine similar reports of “dry” O-ring sprinkler heads.

How does the replacement program work?

To ensure the integrity of your sprinkler system, Central Sprinkler will replace each of the O-ring sprinkler heads noted to the right with a free replacement sprinkler which uses a Teflon coated metallic spring seal technology. Due to the number of sprinklers involved, sprinklers will be replaced over time, with priority based on the age of sprinklers, the population affected and whether the sprinklers show signs of corrosion or leakage.

How do you identify affected sprinklers?

According to EMC loss control experts, sprinklers can be difficult to identify. The best way to begin is to review any sprinkler system installation and/or maintenance records. If you don't have dependable records, check with your architect, builder, sprinkler contractors or building manager. If sprinkler heads are visible and you are safely able to get near them, you may be able to determine if they are sprinkler heads with O-ring seals involved in this replacement program (see drawings to the right). Do not touch, disturb or attempt to remove your sprinkler heads in order to inspect them.

Ongoing inspections and maintenance are the key to ensuring safety.

Whether you think you have a sprinkler problem or not, EMC loss control experts agree that all sprinkler systems should be regularly inspected and maintained much like a building's heating, cooling, electrical and elevator systems. In addition, the most recent industry standards state that dry heads should be tested and replaced, if necessary, every ten years.

For complete details about this replacement program and what to do in the event you have specified sprinklers on your premises, consult with your EMC agent who can schedule a visit with an EMC loss control expert. You can also get information directly from Central Sprinkler at or by calling 1-866-836-3928.

[Editor’s Note: With the start of the boiler heating season right around the corner, you may find the following tips from Hartford Steam Boiler useful.]

Each year, hundreds of accidents are reported nationally involving steam and hot water heating boilers in businesses, public buildings and other facilities. Most boiler problems develop slowly over a long period of time.

The majority of boiler accidents can be prevented with the proper use of operating and maintenance logs. Because a boiler’s operating conditions change slowly over time, a log is the best way to detect significant changes that may otherwise go unnoticed.

If a boiler is to be kept in good operating condition, someone who tends to the boiler must be responsible for its operation and maintenance. This person should have a good understanding of boiler operation and safety devices. Maintenance and testing should be performed and recorded in the log on a regularly scheduled basis. The responsible individual should initial the log to verify each operation performed, who performed it, and when it was done.

Stay warm and safe this winter.

In light of the recent terrorist acts, many organizations are reviewing their emergency action plans. We encourage all businesses, schools and other facilities to have an adequate emergency plan to respond to any type of disaster.

Why is emergency planning important? For starters, 60 percent of businesses do not reopen their doors following a major disaster. Whether it’s a natural disaster, fire or an act of aggression, companies most likely to recover have an emergency action plan and have trained their employees to implement the plan when necessary.

According to EMC's loss control experts, a good emergency action plan should include:

  • Emergency escape procedures and routes.
  • Procedures for reporting fires and other emergencies.
  • Methods for accounting for personnel following an evacuation.
  • A description of rescue and medical duties of employees.
  • A list of names and job titles of personnel who can be contacted for further information or explanation of the plan.

Before implementing the plan, you should train a sufficient number of employees who can assist in the safe and orderly evacuation in an emergency situation. The plan should be reviewed with each employee prior to its implementation, whenever the employee's responsibilities or designated actions under the plan change, or whenever the plan is changed. New employees should also be trained on those parts of the plan which affect their safety and protection in the event of an emergency.

Granted, you may not be able to plan for every type of emergency situation your organization may face, but without a plan, your organization could cease to function as a result of a natural or man-made disaster.

Your EMC agent can put you in touch with EMC loss control experts who can assist in the development and/or refinement of your emergency action plan as well as help educate employees about the importance of such plans.

OSHA’s revised recordkeeping rule has been cleared by the Bush administration and will go into effect January 1, 2002. Only work-related injuries requiring medical treatment are to be recorded in the new OSHA 300 logs. First aid cases do not need to be reported.

OSHA’s rule addressing the recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses affects approximately 1.3 million establishments. The revision promotes improved employee awareness and involvement in the recordkeeping process, provides workers and their representatives access to the information on recordkeeping forms and increases awareness of potential hazards in the workplace. The revision also allows employers more flexibility for using computers to meet OSHA regulatory requirements.

Employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from most requirements of the new rule, as are a number of industries classified as low-hazard such as retail service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors.

Contact your EMC agent or visit for more information about how this recordkeeping rule revision will affect you and your employees.

Drug-Free Workplaces
The newly formed House of Representatives Drug Abuse Task Force is expected to push for increased action on the topic of drug-free workplace programs.

OSHA Ergonomics Announcement Delayed
In the wake of recent events, the Department of Labor has postponed the announcement of a plan of action on ergonomics until later this fall.

Count on EMC

Our new marketing initiative says it all - for coverages, service and expertise, count on EMC Insurance Companies.