Your employee’s safety is your number one concern for your business.  Your fire drill routine is flawless, and everyone knows the evacuation plan.  So what’s missing?  Just like changing the oil in your car, you have to make sure the fire sprinkler system works from time to time.  As a matter of fact, according to National Fire Protection Association(NFPA), you are legally required to test your fire pump annually.

What does the fire sprinkler system have to do with a fire pump?

The fire pump provides water supply to fire sprinkler systems where the water supply pressure is too low or nonexistent.  When a fire happens, you want to make there’s enough water to take out the fire.  That’s whole reason you have a sprinkler system in the first place.  It’s like going to a hamburger joint and not getting meat in between the buns.  What’s the point?

The field acceptance test is conducted on newly installed pumps and demonstrates that all fire pump unit components are working correctly.  After you’ve checked your shiny, new fire sprinkler system is up to par, now it’s up to you to maintain it monthly and annually following NFPA 25.  This requirement tests the fire pump’s flow and pressure.

Most fire pumps are electric or diesel motor driven.  Check out the manual to see how to maintain your fire pump.

What do I have to do every month?

NFPA 25 requires the electric motor driven fire pumps to be operation monthly.  This ensures the wheels on your equipment are still moving.  These mandated tests are merely for your protection.  Set a reminder on your calendar to make sure you get this test done.  You can outsource this task to an engineer, or you can do it yourself.

  • Run the pump for at least 10 minutes
  • Record the system suction and discharge pressure gauge readings
  • You can use the forms provided on the NFPA website to make sure you’re getting everything you need down.
  • Check the pump packing and battery for any discharge
  • Listen for any unusual noises
  • After a few tries, you will get to know your pumps well
  • Record the pump starting pressure

How about every year?

Annually, you take the it one step further by making by attaching hoses to the discharge test header.  Then run the hoses to a safe location where the water or discharge will not cause any damage.  Jot down the pressure readings at the pump runs through various stages.  If there is anything out of the ordinary, then investigate a little further.

Most of the year, your pump sits at the “off” position, so testing it to make sure it’s doing its thing is important to ensure that when disaster does strike, your building is safe.

Take it one step further

Still uneasy about testing it only once a month?  Make it a task for someone else to take on as part of their job to test the fire pump weekly.  Equipment does fail from time to time.  The fire pump sitting idle can disguise problems you probably won’t see until the monthly or even annual test.  You can’t take that risk.  You didn’t practice all of those fire drills and evacuation plans for your employees to not have a place to come back to work.  Take the extra 30 minutes to make sure everything is in good, functioning order.

Both electric and diesel powered fire pumps have differing lengths they need to run in order to be tested correctly.  Electric powered ones need to run for at least 10 minutes and diesel powered pumps need 30 minutes.  At the very basic level, running properly is your only prerogative.  If there is anything out of the ordinary, address the problem immediately.  Disasters strike all of the time, so be prepared.

Obviously, you want to run these tests when there is no one in the building who will get wet or distracted from the fire pump test.  Make sure the fire pump starts automatically by simulating a pressure drop in the system. If your pressure switch is not working, then it’s a good thing you checked it out.

Again, keep the packing drip under control.  Understand where the water is flowing in your system and there are no big splashes of water.  Control as necessary by adjusting the packing glands with a slight turn to keep the water flow constant, throughout the system.  When the equipment stops, packing leakage needs to be about one drip per second.  If there is no leakage, you can dry out your system, making it less effective.  Might as well kiss your records goodbye as the sprinkler system won’t be able to save them.

Like any machine, make sure it is not overheating and shutting down when the pump is turned off.  The water is not supposed to be hot, only warm to the touch.  Then, clear out any clogs in the packing drip drains.  Finally, write it all down.  Like any type of inspection requirement, be prepared for any kind of audit.  It’s your responsibility to make sure your employees are safe.  Don’t skimp out on a requirement because it seems like too much work.

Running the equipment every week and keeping a written log will keep you compliant and save you from a catastrophe.  Fire pumps sit alone in a far dark room, never to be heard of after installation.  This is why the NFPA requires you to check it regularly.  With all of the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget that equipment that is in a far off land.  Schedule a time that you run these tests and treat it like an important meeting.  While witnessing, in person, that the system is in good working order, you will have peace of mind if something disastrous were to happen at your office.  Imagine, you will pat yourself on the back knowing the fire sprinkler system does work because you checked, checked, and checked the fire pump again.

If you have questions, please contact us. We are here to help.