The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Central Sprinkler Co., an affiliate of Tyco Fire Products LP, of Lansdale, PA, are announcing a voluntary replacement program. The company will provide free parts and labor to replace 35 million Central fire sprinklers with O-ring seals. The program also includes a limited number of O-ring models sold by Gem Sprinkler Co. and Star Sprinkler, Inc., totaling about 167,000 sprinkler heads.
Central initiated this action because it discovered the performance of these O-ring sprinklers can degrade over time. These sprinkler heads can corrode, or minerals, salts and other contaminants in water can affect the rubber O-ring seals. These factors could cause the sprinkler heads not to activate in a fire.
Central is providing newer fire sprinklers that do not use O-ring seals and is voluntarily launching this program to provide enhanced protection to its sprinkler customers. This is the third largest replacement program in CPSC history.
"I am pleased that Central is voluntarily undertaking this major program proactively to replace sprinklers nationwide and protect consumers from the risk of fire," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown.
Central will provide replacement sprinkler heads and the labor needed to replace the sprinklers free of charge. Central will also arrange for the installation by using either its own Central Field Service crews or by contracting with professional sprinkler contractors.
This replacement program includes two kinds of sprinklers: "wet" and "dry." Wet sprinklers are installed in piping that is filled with water. Dry sprinklers are used in areas that may be exposed to very cold temperatures and in which the exposed piping does not contain water. Central has received four reports of wet sprinklers failing to activate during a fire and nine similar reports on dry sprinklers. These incidents resulted in two property damage claims against Central.
The sprinklers were installed nationwide in a wide variety of buildings, including houses, apartments, hospitals, day care facilities, schools, dormitories, nursing homes, supermarkets, parking garages, warehouses and office buildings.
Central manufactured 33 million wet sprinklers with O-rings from 1989 until 2000 that are covered by this program. Central also manufactured two million dry sprinklers with O-rings from the mid-1970s to June 2001 that are covered by this program. The program also covers 167,000 sprinklers with O-rings manufactured by Gem Sprinkler Co. and Star Sprinkler Inc. from 1995 to 2001. A listing of all the models covered under this voluntary replacement program can be found online at www.SprinklerReplacement.com.
The affected fire sprinkler heads have the words "CENTRAL" or "STAR," the letters "CSC," the letter "G" in a triangle, or a star-shaped symbol stamped on either the metal sprinkler frame or on the deflector. The model designation and date may also be stamped on the frame or deflector. The deflector is the flower- or gear-shaped metal piece at one end of the sprinkler head.
Laboratory testing has indicated that most of the heads would operate in a fire situation, but certain tested heads required higher water pressure to activate than may be available in particular buildings. Due to the number of sprinklers involved, this program will be phased in, with priority based on the age of the sprinklers, the population affected (e.g., buildings such as nursing homes and hospitals will be given priority), and whether the sprinklers show signs of corrosion or leakage. This program puts in place an orderly process that serves the public interest.
Building and home owners should check their fire sprinklers immediately to see if they are part of this voluntary replacement program. For more information on how to identify sprinklers subject to this program and to learn how to participate in this program, call the Notice Packet Request Line at (800) 871-3492, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or access the program's Web site at www.SprinklerReplacement.com.
The Commission is currently working with the sprinkler industry to improve sprinkler reliability and upgrade existing standards and codes.
The Commission and Central emphasize that for sprinkler systems to be effective, they must be regularly inspected, and maintained like a building's heating, cooling, electrical and elevator systems. In addition, the most recent industry standards state that dry sprinkler heads should be tested, and replaced if necessary, at least every 10 years. Central believes all fire sprinkler heads should be tested no later than 10 years after installation, and depending on water quality and other factors, more frequent testing may be appropriate.
Central is also contacting foreign governments to facilitate the replacement of these O-ring sprinklers that may be installed in their countries.