To assist with the cause investigation, the physical artifacts associated with the failure should be collected and preserved. This includes any pipe fitting fragments or other sprinkler components. The first responder to the site also should photographically document the valve room, pressure gauges, and inspection
tags for the sprinkler system prior to any repairs being made. Since sprinkler systems are considered life safety systems, most fire departments insist that the sprinkler system be put back into service as soon as possible. This does not always leave much time for a forensic examination. If possible, the portion of the line where the failure occurred should be isolated, capped, and left undisturbed while the rest of the system is put back into service. This will allow some additional time to inspect with the interested parties.
In addition to preserving the physical artifacts, some basic information should be gathered. For example, determine when the sprinkler system was installed and by whom. Find out if any work was done on or around the sprinkler system since it was installed. Ask the insured who performs service and maintenance for the sprinkler system, and make sure to differentiate between “service” and “maintenance.” Inspections and required testing may be performed by a vendor on a regular basis, but these tests typically do not include preventative maintenance. Thus, while most property owners contract for the performance of quarterly or annual tests referred to as “service,” there may not be a formal procedure in place for required “maintenance,” which might include the periodic draining of condensation from low points in a dry sprinkler system. To the extent outside vendors are involved, the contracts should be reviewed to ascertain the scope of the vendor’s work.