– By Jeffrey R. Pratt, Esq. (originally published in Spring 2000)
In April, 1999, this newsletter reported about Omega brand fire sprinklers, which were installed in many condominiums and commercial buildings throughout the country. The Omega fire sprinklers failed to operate on enough of those few, but nevertheless important, occasions which resulted in a class action products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer and a subsequent recall. Many of our readers have filed legal claims against Omega for the replacement of these defective sprinklers. Unfortunately, it seems that at least some of the replacement sprinklers for the Omega brand may also suffer the same fatal flaw as the problematic Omegas: they don’t operate in a fire.
Underwriters Laboratories Inc.(”UL”) recently announced that it is investigating reports that “certain Model GB series fire sprinklers manufactured by Central Sprinkler Co. of Lansdale, PA may leak or not operate in a fire”. Yikes! Apparently the problem is that the GB model sprinkler requires higher water pressure to operate than is available in some buildings. UL reports that the sprinklers being investigated have “o-ring” type water seals and UL recommends that all homeowners, building owners and building managers investigate to determine the make and model of their sprinklers. If a building is equipped with “Model GB”, then a fire sprinkler service company should be contacted to investigate and determine the appropriate corrective action.
According to UL, the GB models in question were first manufactured in 1988 and may be identified by the following prefixes: GB, GB-ALPHA, GB-J, GB-QR, GB-EC, GB-RS, GB-20, GB-20QR ,GB-R, GB-R1, GB-R2, GBR-LF, GB4, GB4-EC, GB4-FR, GB4-QREC, BB1, BB2, BB3, SD1, SDD2,SD3, HIP, ROC, LF, and WS. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list or completely accurate list of all models affected. Please verify whether your building and its sprinklers are affected by contacting a fire sprinkler service company or the sprinklermanufacturer for the properidentification.
UL is also investigating the cause of the elevated water pressure problem. In some instances UL has found evidence of corrosion and deposits around the sprinkler’s water seal assembly, apparently caused by leakage past the o-ring. In other cases, it seems that the sprinklers simply require higher water pressure to operate than is supplied by the building. For instance, twenty percent of the sprinklers tested by UL failed to operate at a water pressure of 5 psi (pounds per square inch), which is the pressure that the sprinklers are required to operate at in order to receive UL approval and a UL listing. In other instances, the sprinklers did not operate at 7 psi, which is the operating pressure required by the National Fire Protection Agency. UL testing further found that a few samples did not operate at pressures up to 60 psi, which is greater than the water found in some buildings and residences.
We would rather not have the occasion to represent any of our clients in the aftermath of a fire. In other words, please investigate and replace if necessary. Further information may be obtained from UL’s website, at www.ul.com or from Underwriters Laboratories Inc. 333 Pfingsten Rd., Northbrook, Ill. 60062. At the time of this publication, UL’s contact was Tim Montgomery, (847) 272-8800, ext. 42506, or
email@example.com. Further information regarding the sprinkler models affected and manufacturer’s warranty may be obtained from Central Sprinkler Co., 451 Cannon Avenue, Lansdale PA, 1-800-523-6512. A link to this information can be found at the Peters & Freedman, LLP., website: www.hoalaw.com.