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The nation's second-largest maker of fire sprinklers continued to manufacture thousands with high failure rates for nearly a year after claiming they had been fixed.

Central Sprinkler Co. of Lansdale, Pa., said in a statement to the Associated Press this week that the failure to fix about 20,000 faulty Omega sprinkler heads was an oversight caused by "internal confusion."

Central had said repeatedly that the Omegas' rubber O-rings, which need unacceptably high water pressure to activate, were replaced with silicone O-rings in all Omegas produced after June 6, 1996.

But last month, Fairfax fire officials discovered that a type of Omega manufactured in 1997 still had the suspect O-rings.

Underwriters Laboratories has established a toll-free number (1-800-758-1794) to help homeowners and building managers arrange for Omega sprinklers to be sent to their lab for testing.

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