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Preventing Disaster: 4 Practical Reasons Why Backflow Testing Services Are Important

Fire protection systems safeguard individuals and structures from catastrophic incidents that are hard to imagine. However, most of the population must understand how these systems operate. Many individuals mistakenly believe it involves simply pulling the alarm, causing the sprinklers to activate effortlessly.

Unfortunately, it's not that straightforward. Rather, a highly pressurized system is triggered once the alarm is pulled, leading to the release of water that effectively ensures the safety of both people and the building itself. Another critical element of fire protection systems is backflow testing services.

What Is A Backflow?

In the US and practically anywhere in the world, maintaining a supply of potable water and protecting water supplies from current and potential contaminants have always been a priority. Backflow is a form of contamination that we can prevent. Backflow happens when the direction of water flow reverses, causing contaminated water to return to clean water supplies.

Backflow testing services are important in testing the potability of the water supply.

This flow reversal poses a significant issue for all plumbing, irrigation, and fire suppression systems. Thus, careful attention to this matter should be an integral part of maintenance plans for both commercial and residential buildings.

Backflow occurs when there are changes in pressure within the pipelines. There are two reasons for backflow in pipelines: back siphonage and back pressure. Back siphonage arises when vacuuming conditions within a pipeline force contaminated water downstream to contaminate the potable water.

On the other hand, backpressure occurs when downstream pressure is higher, enabling contaminated water to flow upstream. Factors such as elevation and pumps contribute to instances of back pressure.

In fire suppression systems, the concern regarding backflow arises from water in the sprinkler pipes, which remains stagnant until needed during a fire emergency. As this water sits in the system, hazardous metals seep into it through a chemical reaction between the metal and the water.

Corroded metal pipes release metals like mercury, lead, and zinc into the water. Drinking water contaminated with lead has been linked to severe health issues in humans, including high blood pressure, reproductive issues in adults, and behavioral disorders and hyperactivity in children.

Fortunately, the industry acknowledged the importance of preventing backflow. It introduced the backflow preventer, an apparatus that ensures backflow never becomes a problem in your plumbing, irrigation, or fire sprinklers.

What Is A Backflow Preventer, And Why Is It Necessary?

A backflow preventer is a device that safeguards the water within the sprinkler system, ensuring it flows only in one direction: from the water main into the sprinkler system.

Similar to a hose bib on your garden hose, a miniature backflow preventer on the nozzle directs water to squirt out sideways rather than flowing back into the source. In commercial buildings, the backflow preventer serves as a tool for utility departments to guarantee the safety and purity of their water.

Backflow preventers are normally installed in the wet sprinkler and standpipe systems, where water is kept under pressure within the pipes and released only once the system is activated. Eventually, this water can stagnate and become contaminated with bacteria and chemicals like antifreeze, corrosion inhibitors, and other additives used in the system.

Without backflow preventers, this contaminated water could pollute the drinking water or "potable" water supply once standpipes and sprinkler systems are connected to a public water source. Even if a sprinkler system is linked to a non-potable water supply, there remains a contamination risk if cross-connections exist between that system and the community's drinking water supply.

Backflow preventers contain two check valves, also known as one-way valves, that permit water to flow in only a single direction. This redundancy guarantees that if one check valve malfunctions, the other will keep safeguarding the water supply and establishing a more dependable seal, thereby preventing minor backflow leaks. The backflow preventer's check valves operate autonomously, with a pressure-relief valve between them, allowing closing one valve to decrease the pressure differential across the other.

Check valves are positioned at various points within a fire protection system to prevent water from backing into the supply line. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that check valves alone are inadequate to safeguard water supply lines against contamination. Other essential components of a backflow preventer include two test cocks (small ball valves) and a shutoff valve that facilitate the necessary testing of the assembly and each valve.

Understanding Backflow Testing Services

While the prospect of metals and harmful bacteria infiltrating the water supply is alarming, the possibility of an accidental fire wreaking havoc on a business or home and endangering lives is even more terrifying. Thankfully, by conducting inspections and adhering to appropriate building and safety system maintenance, it is simple to ensure that backflow never becomes a problem in the fire suppression system.

While many individuals voluntarily strive to ensure the optimal functioning of their backflow preventers, laws, and regulations have been enacted at the local and federal levels to guarantee owners fulfill their responsibilities. The NFPA or National Fire Protection Association Standard 25 mandates that owners of fire sprinkler systems undergo quarterly inspections, with a requirement to completely flush the systems every five years. On a local scale, fire marshals are accountable for enforcing regulations on fire sprinkler systems downstream from potable water supplies.

The Importance of Backflow Testing Services

Testing for backflow in fire suppression systems is necessary.

Backflow testing services assess the functionality of backflow preventers to guarantee their proper operation. Regular backflow testing services assure people that they will function effectively during an emergency. Every backflow preventer should include specific dates indicating when they require proper testing. So, why are backflow testing services necessary? The following are some reasons:

Health Concerns

One crucial reason for the importance of backflow testing services is related to health concerns. Backward water flow can introduce contaminants from the sewer system, polluting the water supply. In a residential setting, this poses a significant risk to health as it may lead to the consumption of contaminated water.

Prevents Damage to Buildings

Backflow preventers also serve to protect buildings from damage. Consider this: if water flows backward, it can contact walls, causing unsightly deterioration. Over time, this corrosion can result in substantial damage. If the water keeps hitting the same spot, the walls will someday deteriorate due to moisture. Therefore, backflow testing services are crucial for preserving the structural integrity of your buildings.

Environmental Concerns

Pollution of water is never beneficial for the environment. If pollutants are reintroduced into the water source, they re-enter the environment. The contaminated water flows back into the sewer system, reaching our oceans and lakes. It is crucial to regularly test your backflow preventer to avoid contributing polluted water to these bodies of water that are already heavily contaminated.

Community Reasons

Backflow testing services can also help the environment.

Backflow preventers also contribute to the well-being of communities. If contaminated water burdens a community, it cannot thrive. Numerous community members may fall ill, and the excess moisture can cause buildings to deteriorate. Therefore, you must regularly test your backflow preventers to prevent the entire community from becoming sick. Cities that neglect periodic backflow testing services or fail to take them seriously may face government fines or other regulations.

How We Can Help

Due to moving parts, these backflow preventers require periodic backflow testing services. Only certified professionals should install, inspect, and repair backflow prevention systems.

We at A-1 Fire and Security Equipment offer various backflow services, including backflow installations, inspections, and repairs. If you need backflow testing services, do not hesitate to contact us! We would be glad to visit your building and ensure the purity and potability of your water.