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NFPA 25, 2011 edition, section 14.2.1. is meant to be a minor internal pipe inspection done every 5 years, whereas section 18.104.22.168. is a thorough investigation only done when needed. Every 5 years an inspection is done according to section 14.2.1 by removing just 1 fire sprinkler head and 1 flushing connection and looking to see if there is any evidence of obstruction. If there is no evidence of obstruction, then an investigation is not required, and this minimal inspection does not have to be done for another 5 years.
Yes, it is true that NFPA 25 does not limit the obstruction investigation to dry systems, as seen in Table 5-1. In annex D3.2, however, it says that when there is both a dry and wet system, check the dry system first. If the dry system is ok, then don’t bother to check the wet system, but if it isn’t, then check the wet system too.
If there is evidence of obstruction, then a full obstruction investigation is to be done according to sections 22.214.171.124. through 126.96.36.199. This is a big deal and tends to be very expensive, especially where flushing is involved. During any inspection, if any of the 14 conditions of section 14.3.1 are discovered, then the obstruction investigation is warranted at that time, with the quick-check inspection of section 14.2.1 done every 5 years from the time of correction onward. The obtruction investigation, depending upon what is discovered, may require flushing for a small part of the system, or for the entire system. Repairs and/or replacement may be required for a small part or a large part of the system depending upon what the obstruction investigation reveals.
In summary, here is the intent of the standard, "See if its broken. If its broken, then figure out how badly it's broken and then fix it. If it's not broken, then don't fix it."
This 2011 edition of NFPA 25 edition makes clear the difference between "inspections" and "investigations" in their section 14.2.
[Last updated 1-11-12 to reflect currently adopted edition of NFPA 25 along with its references. Previously updated 3-19-08 to include the second paragraph for clarification]
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