Many of us are grateful for the overhead fire sprinkler systems that protect our workplaces, schools, places of worship, frequent shopping haunts, and more.
Yet most take for granted where that life and property-saving water comes from and how it gets to those sprinklers in the first place:
The sprinkler riser room.
Sprinkler Riser Room Defined
The riser room is the room or designated space where the control room of the fire sprinkler system is kept.
It is where above ground vertical supply pipes (system risers) connect the water supply to the fire sprinkler system’s cross and/or feed mains and where the system’s pressure and water are monitored and controlled. These system risers contain the pressure gauges, control valves, water flow alarms, and main drains for the sprinkler system.
Riser rooms serve the purpose of allowing maintenance workers and emergency personnel to quickly and easily access the fire sprinkler system’s controls for maintenance and emergency purposes.
Riser rooms do not technically have to be true rooms, according to the IFC (International Fire Code). Still, there are regulations for the environment in which the fire sprinkler system’s risers are kept to ensure that the pipes remain sound, operational, and readily accessible.
Do All Fire Sprinkler Systems have Riser Rooms?
The short answer to this question is: No.
Neither the NFPA nor the ICC (International Code Council) requires that a proper riser room be provided for a fire sprinkler system’s risers. A system’s risers may be in a hallway or on the outside of a building. Where the reliance on a fire sprinkler system may not be as strong, a designated room may not be provided or necessary.
However, if a riser room is provided, it must comply with ICC, NFPA, and local codes. More on that in a moment.
What is in the Riser Room?
As stated above, the riser room is essentially the control center for a building’s fire sprinkler system and plays a pivotal role in the overall fire protection of that facility.
The riser room provides one, easily identified, and accessible location for all of a facility’s fire sprinkler and fire protection equipment. It will often include most or all of the following:
- Sprinkler system risers – the pipes connecting the main water supply and the sprinkler’s cross pipes; if the building is large enough to require multiple sprinkler systems and risers, all should be located in one place
- Piping which connects the system’s risers to a fire department connection (FDC), allowing emergency responders to supplement the sprinkler system’s water supply
- Primary sprinkler system water input
- Sprinkler system valves – valves which function to drain, test, and isolate the system
- Backflow prevention devices – devices which ensure water flows one direction into the system, preventing contamination and pollution from flowing back out of the system into the municipal water supply
- Pressure gauges – gauges which measure water pressure and/or air pressure (in dry sprinkler systems) to determine if a sprinkler system is in service and has sufficient pressure
- Water flow switch – a switch that activates an alarm to alert authorities that the fire sprinkler system has been activated
- Water motor gong – a device, usually placed on the outside wall of a riser room, that sounds when water is flowing through the sprinkler system
- Tamper switches – switches which signal a warning should the system’s fire protection valves close partially or fully
- The fire alarm control panel will sometimes be installed within the riser room
- Fire pumps may also be kept within the riser room, though the room will then have to meet the more robust construction requirements for pump rooms as set by NFPA 20
- Fire protection storage cabinet – often, the riser room serves as an ideal location to store spare sprinkler heads, compatible sprinkler wrenches, copies of relevant NFPA codes, and inspection logs
- Detailed and clearly labeled building floor plans, especially for buildings requiring multiples systems, indicating which control valves are responsible for the different floors and sections of the building(s)
It is important to remember that the above is just an example of some of the items that may be found in a riser room.
What are the Code Requirements for Sprinkler Riser Rooms?
Besides meeting NFPA standards, riser rooms must also comply with ICC’s International Building Code (IBC) and their International Fire Code (IFC), and unique and often more extensive requirements set by the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). Your local codes may dictate what must be included or excluded from your property’s riser room.
As many local codes provide more specific requirements that expand on NFPA, IBC (International Building Code) and IFC (International Fire Code) codes, you should check with your local AHJ to ensure that your property’s set up will pass requirements.
In general, though, following are some of the code requirements that your common riser room will need to comply with:
- Sprinkler system risers must be readily accessible within the riser room. The door to the room may be kept locked, but a key must be available at all times to emergency and maintenance personnel. The room should also be kept clear of non-fire-protection-related items that could block access to the risers.
- Riser rooms must be situated on the ground floor of the property with an exterior door. The exact location may be determined by the facility owner, but it will often be placed where the water supply enters the building and/or centrally located to ensure the system adequately supplies water throughout the entire facility. Your AHJ and local ordinances may make further specifications.
- Access doors to the riser room must be clearly marked. The doors must be labeled with approved signage and lettering of a contrasting color to its background. The IFC requires that these letters be 2 in. tall and 3/8 in. wide, but local jurisdictions may have different or additional signage specifications.
- Riser rooms must be of adequate size to allow maintenance and removal/installation of system parts. While specific dimensions are not provided by the IFC, it recommends deferring to clearance specifications provided by the equipment manufacturers. Your local AHJ may require specific measurements.
- The temperature within the riser room must be kept at 40°F or higher. A permanent heating device must be installed in the room to ensure the appropriate temperature is maintained to prevent freezing pipes and components.
- Permanent lighting must be installed.
Ultimately, all codes regulating the design and details of the fire sprinkler system riser room are intended to ensure the protection of the equipment and easy access for both maintenance and emergency personnel.
Properly Designed Riser Rooms Save Lives
A properly designed, easily accessible, clearly marked riser room makes an enormous difference during an emergency and can be what prevents a small fire from becoming a life-altering tragedy.
As previously stated, local ordinances and your AHJ will likely have further details and additional regulations for your facility’s riser room, and it is of utmost importance you work with your AHJ as you design your riser room. This will not only prevent you from being hit with fines but will also ensure the safety of your facility and those inside.
If you need help designing or maintaining your fire sprinkler risers or riser room, Koorsen Fire & Security can help. With over 70 years of experience and highly trained technicians, they will ensure that your fire sprinkler system is operating at its best to keep your property and people safe. Give Koorsen a call today.