A building’s fire pump system is one of the most important parts of its fire protection system. In the worst situations, we turn to a building’s fire pump system to keep water flowing where we need it. It’s one of the last lines of defense a building has before being engulfed by flames. That’s why it’s so important to do regular fire pump tests.
We rely first on our fire extinguishers for the smallest threats, and then our fire sprinkler systems when things get out of hand. A situation’s danger increases when the piping system or water supply are interrupted, however. At this point, the sprinkler system might not be able to handle the job.
Let’s give a thoughtful look at just how important a fire pump system is. Look at the layers of fire protection and suppression systems in a building’s fire safety system.
In the fire industry, we’re no strangers to the NFPA. Far from it, the NFPA feels like our best friends. They’re also a best friend of the public, that’s why they want to keep them safe with fire pump systems.
The NFPA 20 is the Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection. This is the fire code that outlines the standards for installing fire pump systems in any building. It also discusses guidelines for field acceptance tests and standards for hose valves. In the NFPA’s own words, “NFPA 20 protects life and property by providing requirements for the selection and installation of pumps to ensure that systems will work as intended to deliver adequate and reliable water supplies in a fire emergency.”
The NFPA 25 is the document that states the regulations regarding regular fire pump system inspections. It details the different requirements for monthly inspections called “churns” and annual inspections called “flow tests”.
Monthly churn tests require the system to be run for approximately 10 minutes. Our inspectors check the hardware, flow levels. They record suction and discharge pressure gauge readings and interpret all these results to make sure the system is functioning properly. This test is performed every month. It is vital for the proper response to fire emergencies.
The annual flow test looks at the systems flow and pressure rates. Hoses are run to a safe deposit so that no water damage occurs. Test results are compared with the factory specifications and previous years’ readings. This is to make sure the numbers are in line with what they should be.
So we’ve spoken about how important it is to regularly inspect fire pump systems. It’s why we are required to perform the fire pump test inspections annually. But what happens when a fire pump system is neglected? Well, there are all sorts of problems that can lead to, big and small.
Here’s a video of a very neglected fire pump system. There wasn’t a fire pump test for what appears to be quite a long time. The narrator begins by saying that something accidentally tripped the building’s fire pump system and set it running all night. The water pump was running for hours when they arrived. And because it had been running for so long, it was extremely hot. Water had been leaking everywhere, and the temperature cause it to be steaming, resulting in an extremely humid environment.
Even beyond the poor state of health for the pump, you must also consider that this water problem causes a host of other issues. Hot, moist environments are the perfect breeding ground for molds. Side effects can be mildly discomforting to deadly, presenting additional threats to occupants’ life safety.
What’s further is that this person is having an issue with the pump’s bleeder, which has been clogged by sediment, due to neglect. The bleeder began pouring water all over the floor, so this Youtuber had to jerry-rig a piping system to take the excess water away.
While this will obviously temporarily solve their problem, this is not addressing much larger issues of fire safety. The state of this system is not only going to cost the building’s owners a huge sum of money, but it’s also putting the lives of every person in the building at great risk.
We already know that our jobs in the fire safety industry are extremely important. We spend so much time making sure that everything goes right. And so sometimes we forget what it’s like to see what happens when everything goes wrong. We prefer that the sort of neglect in that Youtube video never happens, but human error is a very real thing. That goes for us in the fire inspection world, too.
We’re doing a job that is so vitally important to the public’s safety. Therefore, we need to make sure it’s done correctly. That’s why Inspect Point works so diligently to make sure that your technicians are always performing at the top of their game. We ensure the best technology to get the job done right. A regular fire pump test is a critical and important factor in keeping a building safe.