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President’s Pen – January 2009

We started the new year off with a pretty exciting meeting. We didn’t get an exact headcount, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 people attended – over 30 from our own society, plus visitors from the National Fire Sprinkler Association and from the East Tennessee Chapter, American Society of Plumbing Engineers. The speaker was Tom Battle, from the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s office.

Tom is circulating a proposal to streamline the process for State review and approval of sprinkler systems. His proposal is for the original design engineer to provide additional information in the preliminary design, and for the Fire Marshal to review and approve the preliminary design prior to issuance of a building permit. Later in the design process, possibly after the building permit was issued, the sprinkler contractor would take the preliminary design and flesh it out into detailed shop drawings with detailed hydraulic calculations. Under the present practice, those shop drawings would be submitted to the Fire Marshal for approval, before the start of installation of the sprinkler system.

The proposed change is to eliminate the Fire Marshal review of the shop drawings. Sprinkler system construction could begin based on the original building permit, as soon as the building construction progressed enough to allow access to the sprinkler contractor. The design engineer would be responsible for assuring that the shop drawings were consistent with the design intent. At the final occupancy inspection, the Fire Marshal could request to see the shop drawings if needed, but for the purpose of verifying that the installation was in accordance with the drawings, not for the purpose of approving the drawings. Of course, the typical completion items (hydrotests, system flushes, etc.) could be a part of the final review.

The Fire Marshal’s office is requesting us, representing the fire protection engineering community, to weigh in with our consensus opinion of this approach. I have my own opinion, which I will outline below, but they don’t need my opinion, they need our opinion.

My opinion is:

  1. There is absolutely no reason this can’t be made to work, but it will represent a change in the way business is done now.
  2. As a design engineer, I would actually do less than would be needed for the permit application – I would define the hazard/protection class for each area of the building, provide flow test data, specify location of the riser, fire department connection, etc, and identify any unusual hazards (i.e., 4kV electrical vaults, water-reactive chemical storage, etc.) where sprinklers were to be omitted. I would have the sprinkler contractor lay out the sprinkler location and piping configuration, and do the preliminary hydraulic calculations. I would need to have direct involvement in the contractor’s design process if I were to stamp the drawings (If the contractor was going to provide PE stamped drawings, my involvement wouldn’t have to be quite so detailed, but I would still want to know that I was getting what I expected to get).
  3. The level of detail that is needed for the Fire Marshal’s review is already required by the Tennessee State Board of Architecht and Engineering Examiners, (see attached Standard of Care) so no design engineer with a TN PE registration should be surprised at the proposal.
  4. The biggest change, in my view, is that I would need to pick the sprinkler contractor earlier in the design process than might be the case otherwise, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. It is easier to avoid interferences than to resolve interferences, and its easier to avoid interferences if the whole design team is working together.

So, I would come down in favor of (or at the very least not opposed to) the Fire Marshal proposal. But, again, they don’t need my opinion; they need our opinion.

We need to present this as a motion (and someone who has an opinion different from mine is welcome to make that motion) at our February meeting.

That will be at the Sagebrush, on 12 February. Guest speakers will be Mac Motley and Andy Lynch of Axonx, discussing their CCTV-based smoke and flame detection systems. Hope to see all of you there.

One other note – as I mentioned at the January meeting, the Atlanta Chapter of SFPE is hosting their fifth annual Fire Safety Conference this March. I have attached their flyer. I attended last year and was very impressed at the wealth of information they presented. I definitely plan to attend again, and hope a goodly number or you can come along. Dave Icove even offered to give us all a ride – I hope he has to rent a bus :-).

TVSFPE is an IRS 501(c)(3) organization. As such, donations are tax deductible to the extent allowable by IRS guidelines.
The following persons/organizations have made contributions within the last year to the TVSFPE Chapter.
Platinum ( $2000)
Tom Christman
Jeff & Lisa Sipes
   Tish & Jim Begley
Gold ($1000-$1999)
Fire and Material Research Lab LLC
   Dr. Elizabeth Buc, Principal
Dr. Dave Icove
Anonymous/UT-B ORNL
Anonymous/UT-B ORNL

Silver ($500-$999)
Harvey Goranson
Jim Landmesser, Sr.
Luke Platfoot
Bronze ($1-$499)
Doug Freels
Robert Gomez
Kathy Callahan

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