In any plumbing system there is an intended way for the water to flow. Backflow refers to water that flows in the wrong direction. This causes environmental problems, plumbing issues, and, in the case of fire sprinkler systems, delay the response time to a fire. In a fire protection system, backflow preventers rely on two one-way valves, called check valves, assembled in a series to prevent water from backing up into the supply line. Think of the check valves as one-way gates, only allowing water to flow through them in one direction.
Backflow is dangerous for the environment because it can lead to water that has been contaminated with chemicals or other pollutants being reintroduced back to the water table. It is the responsibility of those in the fire protection industry to protect the water supply, and this is regulated by local governing boards.
Backflow testing is carried out annually and is usually included as part of fire sprinkler inspection. It is often combined with free flow forward flow testing, which tests to see if gallons per minute required for the sprinkler riser is met.
A deficiency is identified during regular inspections when the devices and components do not meet acceptable standards. Here are a few commonly found deficiencies for backflow devices:
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