Preparing for Indoor April Showers

Tip of the MonthMany commercial buildings have fire sprinklers, and since 1990 they've been required for pretty much all hotels, meeting halls and college dorms. While these sprinkler systems are vital to saving lives during a fire, they sometimes go off at inopportune times.

Do a quick search for "sprinkler floods dorm room," and you'll find no shortage of accidents involving college students being, well, college students. But do another search for "sprinkler floods business," and you'll find stories of downtime, lost sales and angry customers. You can take steps to keep your business's sprinklers from misfiring, but what can you do when another business sets off the sprinkler system in your shared multi-use building? Taking some simple steps beforehand can help save you from complete disaster.

Know Your Fire Suppression System

There are two main types of systems — the traditional "wet," or water-based, system, and "dry" systems. While not as common as wet sprinkler systems, dry suppressant systems use various chemicals to smother fires and are usually installed in areas that may be prone to chemical, electrical or oil-based fires, like machine shops, server rooms, electrical rooms and commercial kitchens.

Wet systems will continue to spray water until they are shut off, but dry systems will generally dump a set amount of suppression agents into an area to quickly smother any fire.Your recovery plan should take into account the type of system you have installed in your business since the damage they can cause to equipment is vastly different.

Keep Things off the Floor

A neighbor's sprinkler system going off may not cause yours to activate, but it might flood your business. Water can seep under doors or run down walls into your space. This is better than water being sprayed everywhere, but can still be disastrous if you don't plan ahead. Design your office workflow to incorporate your flood plan.

Keep computers off the floor and on the desk. Make regular backups of important information, and use an off-site backup service like BlackVault Managed Recovery to keep critical data out of harm's way. Keep your most important paper documents in the upper drawers of filing cabinets, where they will be less likely to be soaked.

Respond Quickly 

Know where shutoff valves are located so you can quickly pass this information on to the proper authorities when they arrive. Do not turn off the sprinkler system on your own; the sprinklers may have come on for a reason. In the meantime, you can activate part of your disaster recovery plan, which could include Mobile Recovery Centers, Quickship of replacement technology and BlackVault Managed Recovery, to help you get your business running again.

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