Design Considerations for Fire Pumps
Fire pump systems are typically employed when the water source used for firefighting requires an additional boost in pressure to meet the needs of a fire sprinkler and/or standpipe system. When it is determined that a fire pump system is required for a building, there are a number to things the design team should consider for placing of the system
The installation and maintenance requirements for fire pump systems are outlined in the NFPA pamphlets 20 and 25 respectively, however the property owner’s insurance carrier as well as local and state laws may also need to be satisfied. Fire pumps are required to be flow tested annually by persons qualified to perform these tests and provide the required test reports. The volume of water that is discharged during these tests can be extensive and should be discharged to a location that will not cause a nuisance and/or damage to surrounding property and structures.
The location of the fire pump room should be preplanned with the local fire department and Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) early in the design phase. This allows the fire department to analyze the fire pump room location based on their firefighting strategies and equipment. Fire pump rooms for high-rise building are required to be separated from surrounding occupancies by a minimum 2-hour fire rating or be physically separated from the protected building by at less 50-feet. Fire pump rooms for non-high-rise buildings are required to be protected by a 1 or 2-hour fire-rated construction or a minimum distance from the protected building, depending upon whether or not the pump room is fully sprinklered or not. These requirements are to provide protection for the pumping system as well as allow fire personal the opportunity to verify and/or observe the operation of the fire pump in the event of a fire.
Fire pumps that are diesel engine driven are required to be run tested weekly for a minimum of 30-minutes. Electric driven fire pumps are required to be run tested monthly however these systems are required to have a primary power source as well as an alternate power source. The alternate power source is typically provided via diesel driven generator. NFPA pamphlet 110, “Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems”, requires diesel engine generators be exercised monthly for at least 30-minutes and be placed in a separate fire rated room with proper ventilation in accordance with applicable building codes. The sound of a diesel engine, of either the fire pump or the generation should be taken into consideration especially in noise sensitive applications such as office buildings, apartment buildings and condominiums.
Fire pump systems play a large role with respects to life safety and property protection. The design team should coordinate early with the AHJ in the design process to determine the best location and space for these systems and their supporting equipment. Open communication between the design team and the local fire department is very important to make sure the installed systems will aid the fire fighters, minimize property damage and save lives.
Above: A 1,500-GPM diesel engine driven fire pump system located in a separate pump room building. This fire pump system services a campus of four condominium buildings, which were constructed in the mid-1980’s.
Above: A 1,000-GPM electric motor driven fire pump system located within a high-rise building. This fire pump system services a seventeen-story condominium building, which was constructed in 2007.