Safe installation of electrically powered fire pumps
Fire protection systems are among the most essential components of any building’s infrastructure. They safeguard both lives and property, so they must be expertly designed and installed for optimum performance.
A standard fire protection system draws from either a public water supply or another water source (such as a reservoir or tank) and connects to sprinklers or standpipes to release water in case of a fire. The fire pump—which is often electrically powered but can also use a diesel engine—provides the sprinklers with water at high enough pressure to meet the system’s needs.
Important factors in electrical fire pump installation
Electrically powered fire pumps must meet many strict codes, such as those set by FM, IRI, NEC, and NFPA. Understanding the most current requirements of each code is critical for correct installation and operation.
NFPA 20: Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection (most recently updated in 2013) outlines standards for fire pumps that ensure systems will deliver water reliably during an emergency. NFPA 20 requires that fire pumps have one or more dependable power sources; a reliable source complies with these stipulations:
- Hasn’t had any power outages for more than 4 hours in the last year
- Hasn’t had any shutdowns not caused by grid-management failure or natural disasters
- Hasn’t been supplied by overhead conductors.
Some other requirements for installing an electrical fire pump according to code include:
- The location and accessibility of the fire-pump room must be preplanned with the fire department.
- For pump rooms that aren’t accessible from the exterior of the building, there must be an enclosed passageway from an enclosed stairway or exterior exit door leading to the pump room. The passageway must have the same fire-resistance rating as the pump room.
- The fire pump must be designed to minimize uneven or turbulent water flow, which can inhibit proper pump operation. For example, it’s necessary to install an anti-vortex plate in the pump to cut down on the air that enters into the suction piping and increase the incidence of turbulent flow. And to decrease turbulence at the suction flange, the size of suction pipe used should be based on a maximum flow velocity of 15 ft/second at 150% of the pump’s capacity.
- For certain high-rise buildings, additional fire protection system features are obligatory, such as water-tank and fire-pump redundancy.
- During acceptance testing, the fire-pump equipment must be able to operate for at least 1 hour.
This article originally appeared on RTM Engineering. RTM Engineering is a CFE Media content partner.