The tones went off just about 10 in the evening. There was a water flow alarm at one of the warehouses in our district.
A water flow alarm goes off when there is a water moving inside the pipes of a buildings sprinkler system. In a monitored system when the alarm sounds we also get toned out.That way if there is an actual fire we can get there in a timely manner.
This time however was like most times. Someone in the warehouse accidentally broke a pipe.
We arrived on scene and were met by one of the supervisors. She said that one of her employees had dropped a box on a pipe and cracked it. They had already contacted the alarm company who said they would be out there first thing in the morning. Meanwhile there was a lot of water spraying everywhere.
Our game plan was to shut off the water to the sprinkler system and then just to let the entire system drain. To do this we had to find the "risers." Pipes through which water is pumped up the side of the wall to the ceiling where the piped then form a grid to provide adequate coverage in case of a fire. The problem was in a building this size (about 500,000 sq ft) there are multiple risers.
Near each riser is a shut off valve. In this case they had a shut off valve on the riser itself (about 7 feet off the ground) and a PIV (Post Indicator Valve) at ground level.
While my engineer and I did some recon to find out just how many valves we were going to have to shut off my captain looked a little closer at the pipe. He noticed that the pipe had been bent upwards causing the crack. He decided to apply a little downward pressure to see if he could stem some of the flow. Nothing happened. So he decided to apply a little more pressure. He found that he could greatly reduce the amount of water leaking.
Most of you can probably see where this is heading.
My captain then decided that if a little pressure was working so well that a little more pressure would be even better. I don't think he consulted with Murphy on this one. The pipe cracked again. This time causing even more water to cascade to the floor.
While we went around turning off all of the PIV's we were followed by the assistant might manager. He kept offering little quips and asinine suggestions. At one point he muttered to my engineer that all firemen do is break s**t. He's lucky I didn't hear that one. I don't think I would have been able to stop myself from saying, "You're right. We'll leave." One of his suggestions was for us to shut down the water main in the street. We had to remind him that he wasn't the only customer that the water company had.
Eventually we got all the valves shut off. The water flow slowed as the entire system drained. Neither the manager nor her assistant offered a thank you.