Quick access to your automatic fire sprinkler or wet standpipe system’s main water control valve can be key in an emergency. But if your system’s main control valve is located underground, quick access, visual or otherwise, is not possible without a post indicator valve (PIV).
If you have an underground main control valve, you may want to consider adding a PIV to your system.
Continue reading to learn more about what post indicator valves are, how they work, why you may want one for your automatic fire sprinkler or standpipe system, and what you can expect when installing, replacing, or maintaining them.
What is a PIV?
In short, post indicator valves (PIVs) are sturdy, above-ground access and operator valves used for automatic sprinkler systems and wet standpipe systems whose main water supply valves are located underground.
With underground main valves, it is both difficult to know whether they are in an open or closed position and difficult to access in a hurry. The PIV is essentially a pipe or post, rising out of the ground that is connected to the underground main. It provides a means of quick access and control to the water supply control valve so that water can quickly be provided or shut off accordingly, and which also has an indicator that shows whether the valve is open or shut.
How Do PIVs Work?
The mechanisms at work in a post indicator valve are fairly straight forward.
Knowing the basic parts of a typical PIV, though, will make for better understanding of how the parts work together to operate an underground main water valve. The five main components are:
- Post Body
- Handle / Wrench Actuator
- Visual Indicator Window and Indicator Sign
- Gate Valve
The first four parts listed are all the exterior parts that are visible above the ground. The fifth part, the gate valve (also known as the operating shaft), is the internal mechanism.
In a standard PIV, the post body is mounted on top of the fire sprinkler/standpipe system’s water supply pipe. Sometimes this means the bottom of the PIV is buried under the ground, while other times, it may have a flange that is bolted down to a concrete platform that stores the supply pipe. Either way, the post body rises out of the ground.
Inside the post body, the gate valve connects to the underground water supply pipe’s shut off valve. The gate valve is then controlled by the wrench actuator/handle, which is on the exterior of the post body.
The wrench is stored on the exterior of the post body and locked in either the closed or open position with a padlock or wire seal of some kind to prevent tampering as well as accidental opening or closing of the valve.
When maintenance or emergency personnel need to operate the valve, they unlock the wrench actuator, remove it from the storage position, and place the wrench end on the operating nut on top of the PIV and turn the nut, subsequently turning the gate valve within to either open or shut the water supply valve.
An indicator sign with both “OPEN” and “SHUT” indications is attached to the gate valve and is visible through the visual indicator window. If the PIV is stored in the shut position, then “SHUT” will be visible through the visual indicator window when in the resting position. When someone uses the wrench to turn and open the gate valve, the indicator sign will move to show “OPEN” through the window.
Because the indicator sign is connected to the gate valve (also referred to as the operating shaft) and rises and falls as the shaft is turned to open or close the valve, it will reveal whether the valve is fully opened, fully shut, or if it may only be partially so (if the sign is not fully revealed in the visual indicator window). This allows maintenance and emergency personnel to quickly determine that the valve is indeed fully and properly open or closed.
After the PIV’s maintenance or emergency use is completed, the valve will be returned to its resting position (either opened or closed), the wrench actuator removed from the operating nut, and placed back in its storage position and locked in place.
Where are PIVs Typically Located?
PIVs may be placed in either a paved or a landscaped area and are often close to the fire department connection (FDC). Regulations are in place to ensure that their use is not hindered by their location.
For instance, if the PIV is in a paved area, it must be somehow protected from damage caused by passing traffic. If the PIV is in a landscaped area, it may not be covered by shrubbery or overgrowth.
The PIV’s Pivotal Role
The NFPA technically does not require a PIV as long as the control valve of the fire sprinkler’s water supply is both listed and has an indicator on it.
However, as mentioned in the first section of the post, a post indicator valve makes it far easier to read and operate a control valve that has been placed underground. The PIV’s easy visibility and ease of operation are beneficial in an emergency. It means being able to see, at a glance, whether the valve is open or shut, and being able to operate it without having to get to the underground access.
Ultimately, the PIV can play an important role in ensuring that the necessary water supply is being provided to your fire sprinkler systems in the event of a fire. Additionally, should a leak or break occur, the PIV can help quickly shut off the water so that no serious damage is done.
Maintenance and Inspection Requirements
To keep your post indicator valve in efficient working condition and up to code, there are maintenance suggestions, as well as inspection requirements as noted below:
- Maintenance: to help prevent the PIV from becoming stuck in place, it is recommended that it be exercised once a month by putting it through an OPEN-CLOSE-OPEN cycle. Once per year, the wrench mechanism ought to be lubricated with a non-detergent oil.
NFPA codes require that the valve be operated through its full range and then returned to its open position at least once a year.
- Inspection: NFPA dictates that PIV control valves be inspected regularly, the frequency of which is determined by the type of seal that is protecting it.
Valves protected by wire seals must be visually inspected every week.
Valves protected by padlocks and chains must be visually inspected every month. Valves protected by electrical tamper switches (which allow supervision of the seal’s status) need only be inspected every quarter.
These regular visual inspections are to ensure that the valve has not been deliberately or accidentally tampered with and that the necessary water supply is provided to the structure the PIV is for.
If you work with Koorsen Fire & Security, your technician can help perform these tasks and ensure that your PIV is in good working condition and up to code.
What to Expect When Installing / Repairing a PIV
If you are considering the addition of a post indicator valve, it is important to be prepared for the work it will take to install. Because PIVs go into the ground (in most cases), full excavation is often required to get them connected to the fire sprinkler system’s underground control valve. Furthermore, even if you are looking to replace a pre-existing PIV or need to do repairs, excavation could still be necessary.
If you work with Koorsen Fire & Security, which has been in the fire protection business for over 70 years, your experience will be a smooth one. They have invested in hydro-excavating trucks that allow them to perform the necessary excavations required to install, repair, or replace your PIV without all of the mess or risk of standard excavation.
Whether you already have a post indicator valve protecting your property that needs maintenance or repairs, or you are considering purchasing and installing one, the expert team at Koorsen is ready to help you with the process. Give them a call today to learn more.