Dry Riser Testing and Maintenance – A Comprehensive Guide

Jun 19, 2024

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Dry risers play an extremely important role in ensuring fire safety in large buildings. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into what dry risers are, how they function and the legal requirements surrounding them. We will also explore the potential consequences of neglecting dry riser maintenance and provide practical advice on ensuring these systems remain in optimal condition.

What is a Dry Riser?

A dry riser is a system of pipes and valves designed to distribute water to multiple levels of a building in the event of a fire. Unlike wet risers, which are constantly filled with water, dry risers are empty and require connection to a water source by firefighters during an emergency. This setup is particularly useful in high-rise buildings, where it may be challenging to pump water from ground level quickly.

How Does a Dry Riser Work?

A dry riser has the ability to become operational during a fire emergency rapidly. This system is designed with efficiency and reliability in mind, ensuring that firefighters can quickly access and distribute water to combat fires. This is especially useful in multi-storey buildings.

Firstly, the installation of a dry riser involves placing vertical pipes throughout the building. There will be strategically positioned outlet valves on each floor. These valves are typically located within fire escape stairwells or service shafts, areas that are easily accessible during an emergency. The dry riser system remains dry under normal circumstances, which prevents issues related to water pressure maintenance and potential leaks. This design is particularly advantageous in tall buildings, where maintaining constant water pressure in a wet riser system could be challenging and costly.

At the ground level, dry risers are equipped with inlet connections housed in a locked and clearly marked cabinet. This cabinet is usually situated outside the building, often near the main entrance or other easily accessible areas. In an emergency, firefighters access these inlet connections to attach their hoses. These hoses are then connected to a water source, such as a hydrant or a fire engine, which pumps water into the dry riser system. Once connected, the water is pumped into the system under pressure, filling the previously dry pipes. This rapid pressurisation ensures that water can be swiftly delivered to the outlet valves on each floor.

Understanding Dry Risers and Their Importance in Building Safety

Dry risers are an essential part of modern building safety infrastructure. They are designed to ensure the rapid and efficient deployment of water in firefighting operations. These systems are particularly vital in multi-storey buildings, where quick and effective access to water can make the difference between a minor incident and a catastrophic event. The importance of dry risers in building safety cannot be overstated, as they play an important role in several key areas.

Facilitate Quick Response

One of the primary benefits of dry risers is their ability to facilitate a quick response during a fire emergency. In the absence of a dry riser, firefighters would have to rely on external hoses to deliver water to upper floors, a process that is both time-consuming and physically demanding. By providing a dedicated internal pipeline, dry risers allow firefighters to connect their water source at ground level and immediately begin delivering water to the higher floors where it is needed.

Ensure Effective Fire Control

Dry Riser Testing and MaintenanceMoreover, dry risers ensure effective fire control by offering a ready-made solution for water distribution throughout a building. During a fire, every second counts, and the ability to quickly access water on multiple floors can greatly enhance firefighting efficiency. With a dry riser system in place, firefighters can combat the fire from within the building. They can target specific areas and prevent the blaze from spreading. By controlling and extinguishing fires more effectively, dry risers help minimise property damage and reduce the risk of loss of life.

Support Firefighting Efforts

Additionally, dry risers support firefighting efforts by alleviating the physical burden on firefighters. Without a dry riser, firefighters would need to manually carry heavy hoses up numerous flights of stairs, a task that is both exhausting and time-consuming. The physical strain associated with this process can slow down response times and reduce the overall effectiveness of the firefighting operation.

Legal Requirements and Regulations for Dry Riser Testing and Maintenance (BS9990:2015)

The role that dry risers play in building safety is acknowledged through various regulatory frameworks. In the United Kingdom, the British Standard BS9990:2015 provides comprehensive guidelines for the installation, testing, and maintenance of non-automatic fire-fighting systems, including dry risers. These regulations are designed to ensure that dry risers remain functional and reliable.

Installation Regulations

The installation requirements set forth by BS9990:2015 specify that dry risers must be installed in buildings that exceed certain height thresholds. Specifically, any building over 18 metres in height or those where the highest floor is more than 10 metres above the level accessible by fire service vehicles. These buildings must have a dry riser system. This mandate reflects the necessity of ensuring that water can be delivered quickly and efficiently to the upper floors of tall buildings, where traditional firefighting methods may be inadequate.

dry riser testing and maintenanceMaintenance Regulations

Maintenance of dry risers is another crucial aspect covered by BS9990:2015. The standard emphasises the importance of regular testing and maintenance to ensure that these systems are always operational when needed. This includes routine checks for any signs of damage, wear, or obstruction that could impede their functionality. By adhering to these maintenance requirements, building owners can ensure that their dry riser systems remain in good working order, ready to be activated at a moment’s notice during a fire emergency.

How Often Should Dry Risers Be Tested?

To further guarantee the reliability of dry riser systems, BS9990:2015 outlines specific inspection frequencies. Visual inspections are to be carried out every six months. During these inspections, a thorough examination of the system is conducted to identify any obvious signs of damage, tampering, or obstruction. These regular checks help to catch potential issues early before they can compromise the system’s effectiveness.

In addition to biannual visual inspections, BS9990:2015 mandates that full pressure tests be conducted annually. These pressure tests are essential for verifying the integrity of the dry riser system under operational conditions. During a full pressure test, the system is filled with water and subjected to the pressures it would experience during actual firefighting operations. This rigorous testing ensures that the dry riser can handle the stress and deliver water efficiently when needed.

Compliance with these regulations not only enhances building safety but also has legal and insurance implications. Failure to adhere to BS9990:2015 can result in legal penalties and may invalidate insurance policies. Insurance companies often require proof of regular maintenance and testing to ensure that fire safety systems are reliable.

Why Do You Need to Keep a Dry Riser Regularly Maintained?

Regular maintenance of fire safety systems is essential for building safety, especially when it comes to dry risers. These systems need to be fully operational and reliable in the event of a fire emergency. There are several reasons why maintaining dry risers should be a top priority for building owners and managers.

Operational Readiness

Dry risers are useful in fire-fighting operations, particularly in high-rise buildings where swift and effective water distribution is necessary to combat fires. Regular maintenance ensures that the system is always ready to be used when needed. This involves routine inspections and tests to confirm that all parts of the system are working, from the inlet connections at ground level to the outlet valves on each floor. Without regular maintenance, issues such as blockages, leaks or valve malfunctions might go unnoticed, potentially rendering the system useless during a critical moment.

Dry riser servicing and complianceCompliance

In the UK, standards such as BS9990:2015 mandate regular testing and maintenance of dry riser systems. These regulations are in place to ensure that all fire safety systems are reliable and effective. Failing to meet these legal requirements can result in substantial fines and other legal repercussions for building owners.

Safety Assurance

Regular checks guarantee that the riser system is free from any blockages, leaks or damage that could impair its function. Over time, wear and tear, environmental factors, or even intentional tampering can affect the integrity of the dry riser system. Routine inspections help identify and address these issues promptly. For instance, internal corrosion, a common issue in older systems, can weaken pipes and connections, leading to potential failures during an emergency.

Insurance Validity

Insurance validity is another significant consideration. Many insurance policies require compliance with fire safety regulations, including the regular maintenance and testing of dry riser systems. Insurance companies recognise that well-maintained fire safety systems are less likely to fail during an emergency, thereby reducing the risk of extensive fire damage and associated claims. Regular maintenance and testing of dry risers help building owners maintain their insurance coverage.

What Happens if a Dry Riser Maintenance is Missed?

The consequences of failing to maintain dry risers can be severe, impacting not only property and financial stability but also human lives. Regular maintenance is essential for ensuring that dry riser systems function effectively during a fire emergency. Missing maintenance checks can lead to several negative outcomes, each with serious implications.

Invalid Insurance

One of the immediate repercussions of neglecting dry riser maintenance is the potential invalidation of insurance policies. Many insurance companies require that fire safety equipment, including dry risers, be maintained in accordance with relevant regulations, such as BS9990:2015. If regular maintenance is missed, it can be difficult to prove compliance with these requirements. As a result, in the event of a fire, the insurance company may refuse to cover the damages, leaving the building owner financially responsible for all repair and replacement costs. This situation can be financially devastating, particularly for high-rise buildings where the extent of potential damage can be substantial.

building fire fire safety legislation

Loss of Life

Beyond financial implications, missing dry riser maintenance can have dire consequences for human safety. The primary purpose of dry risers is to provide a reliable source of water to fight fires, especially in multi-storey buildings. If maintenance checks are skipped, the system may develop undetected issues such as blockages, leaks, or valve malfunctions. During a fire emergency, these problems can prevent the dry riser from delivering an adequate water supply, severely hampering firefighting efforts. This failure can lead to an inability to control or extinguish the fire quickly, increasing the risk of injury or death for building occupants.

Extensive Fire Damage

In addition to the human cost, extensive fire damage is another significant consequence of missed dry riser maintenance. An unmaintained dry riser system is more likely to fail during a fire, resulting in a lack of sufficient water to combat the flames effectively. This failure can allow the fire to spread more rapidly and extensively, causing severe damage to the building and potentially endangering adjacent structures.

How Can I Get a Dry Riser Tested?

Ensuring that your dry riser system is properly maintained and regularly tested is important. Engaging a professional service provider like OHEAP can help streamline this process. It will help to ensure that your dry riser system is thoroughly inspected, tested, and certified.

OHEAP specialises in fire safety equipment testing and maintenance. Once you have scheduled an appointment, OHEAP’s technicians will arrive at your building to conduct a comprehensive visual inspection of your dry riser system. This inspection is the first step, as it allows the technicians to identify any visible signs of damage, tampering, or obstruction that could affect the system’s performance. The technicians will examine the inlet and outlet valves, pipework, and other components to ensure that everything is in good condition and free from any issues that could stop water flow during an emergency.

After the visual inspection, the next step is the full pressure test. OHEAP’s technicians will use specialised equipment to fill the dry riser system with water and subject it to the necessary pressure required during firefighting operations. This test is designed to verify that the system can hold and deliver water efficiently without any leaks or weaknesses. The pressure test is a thorough process that simulates real-life conditions, ensuring that the dry riser system is capable of performing effectively when needed most. Any issues identified during this test will be addressed promptly, with repairs carried out to restore the system’s functionality.

Upon successful completion of the inspection and pressure test, OHEAP will provide certification that your dry riser system complies with BS9990:2015 standards. This certification is an important document that demonstrates your adherence to legal requirements.

Tools and Equipment Needed for Dry Riser Testing and Maintenance

Proper dry riser testing and maintenance require a range of specialised tools and equipment. Pressure test pumps simulate the water pressure that the system would experience during an actual fire, while hoses and couplings connect the pump to the dry riser inlet. Pressure gauges monitor the system’s pressure during testing, and inspection cameras allow for internal pipe inspections to detect blockages or corrosion. Valve keys are used to open and close the outlet valves, and sealing kits are essential for repairing any minor leaks or issues found during inspections. These tools ensure that dry riser systems are thoroughly tested and maintained for optimal performance.

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