NFSA investigates fake sprinklers

Thursday, August 3, 2006

PATTERSON, N.Y.--In response to the discovery two weeks ago of counterfeit sprinklers outside of North America, Russ Fleming, executive vice president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association assembled a task force to investigate the extent of the problem.
"The problem is outside of the U.S. and Canada and it tends to be in the Third World," he said. "We're working with the listing laboratories [Underwriters Laboratory] to ensure that the practice is stopped."
On July 14, Underwriters Laboratory issued a notification of fake sprinkler heads bearing a fake UL mark and also bearing the word Globe. The sprinklers were not manufactured by Globe Fire Sprinkler Corp. of Standish, Mich.
Steven Worthington, executive vice president of Globe Fire Sprinkler Corporation issued a statement saying that the company was working closely with UL and other USA-based sprinkler manufacturers on this issue. "It is our belief that the extent of the counterfeited Globe sprinkler heads have only been found in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Spain and part of Eastern Europe," he said. "Our competitors have experienced similar problems in these specific markets. Subsequently, we are not aware of any counterfeit Globe sprinkler heads entering the United States and/or Canada."
In the Globe case, the fake sprinklers were manufactured in China. Robert Worthington, president of Globe, surmised that the counterfeiters chose to put the Globe name on the fake sprinklers because "Globe is a well known name in China, and yet it's the smallest American manufacturer by far."
Fleming said counterfeiting comes in different forms: the listing and/or manufactures' mark may be fake, or the sprinkler could have a legitimate listing but a manufacturer could be producing a version of the product with inferior materials or assembly.
Fleming said the task force, which includes himself and UL staff members, will work with manufacturers and, more specifically, with distributors. Distributors are in the best position to know or find out if illegitimate products are reaching the marketplace by "direct observation of their sales or a decline in their sales."
Fleming said U.S. based installers need to be vigilant, but said he doesn't foresee a problem arising in North America because the U.S. and Canada have solid regulatory practices and installers here are accustomed to dealing with legitimate products and distributors.
The NFSA estimates that "90 million sprinklers are installed around the world. About half of those are in North America and half are elsewhere," Fleming said.