Room Integrity Testing was a key ingredient to the approval of Clean Agent Systems beginning in the 1970’s. It was originally a requirement of several Insurance Agencies, and became widespread in the marketplace. Eventually, it was included in the NFPA Standard 12A for Halon 1301 Systems. During this time, the tests were performed with full scale discharges and monitored by strip type recording charts that measured the concentration.
Many of these tests were conducted using Halon 1301, but most were conducted using refrigerant 12 as a test agent, and when adjusted for the difference in density, the results were directly readable on the meter’s strip charts.
This method was in widespread use until the early 1990’s, when environmental issues required us to stop this method of testing, and look for other methods to show that the agent would stay in the protected area for the required period of time. During this period, the room pressurization tests were shown to be an acceptable alternative to the full scale testing. This is the method that is in use today, and is required by NFPA 2001, the Standard for Clean Agent Systems.
As with any testing method, it is only as reliable as the equipment used and the training and experience of the operators. Upstate Fire Equipment’s Robert Dyminski has been performing full scale tests since the early 1970’s, and is a factory trained technician on Retrotec’s Equipment. Over this time, he has performed hundreds of test in all types of enclosures. In addition to the operator training, the equipment also needs to be recalibrated annually.
Over the years I have heard of many problems with rooms not passing this integrity test. And while it has been my experience that some rooms will need additional sealing, eventually you can get a room to pass. When one cannot get a room to pass, it always seems that it is by a company with out of calibration equipment, or untrained operators. Since these systems will not perform as designed unless the room can be sealed, this test is a very important step in the installation of these systems.