Diagram decorative image

A fire pump is the backbone of most fire protection systems, especially in high-rise structures. Regular maintenance and testing are critical to ensuring everything works in an emergency.

Fire pumps are critical in distributing water through sprinkler systems where water pressure from city water mains and firefighting equipment may be insufficient. To provide the design pressure for the fire protection system, one or more fire pumps may be required.

A fire pump only runs during a fire emergency or when it is tested. When a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system fails, the problem is quickly apparent. If a fire pump is not performing properly, however, it is only discovered during testing, or worse, after an emergency. Failure of a fire pump to operate when needed can have catastrophic consequences. A fire pump failing to perform at or near its performance curve can also put your building at risk.

NFPA* 25, the Standard for Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, stipulates the required frequency of fire pump testing and how the tests are to be performed. Fire pump test results are only considered acceptable when all the following conditions are met:

  • The fire pump meets the flow and pressure requirements of the most demanding system(s) being supplied by the fire pump based on owner-provided system design information.
  • Fire pump supplies 100 percent of rated flow.
  • The net pressure at each design point is at least 95 percent of one of the following:
  • Original manufacturer’s pump curve.
  • Original unadjusted field test curve.
  • Test curve generated from the fire pump nameplate.

Failure of the fire pump to meet all the above conditions requires corrective action to be taken, up to and including replacement of the fire pump if other corrective action is insufficient.

It is becoming more common for local jurisdictions to adopt and enforce the requirements of NFPA 25. Impairment of a fire pump system should be, and often is, required to be reported to the local authority. Occupancy restrictions or fire watch requirements may be imposed by the local authority until the fire pump impairment is resolved.

Like other mechanical systems, fire pumps do not last forever and will eventually need to be replaced. If it is determined a new fire pump is needed, a complete inspection of the sprinkler system should be done to confirm that a new pump of the same size still meets current code requirements.

In addition to age, other factors that can impact the operational life span of a fire pump include:

  • The quality of the water entering the system
  • Physical environment of the pump (humidity, temperature, and more)
  • Maintenance and testing regularity
  • Quality of manufactured pump

It is also important to monitor fire pump controllers, which tell the fire pumps when to turn on. When a fire pump replacement is undertaken, the sequence of events needs to be well thought-out, so the impairment time is kept to a minimum. A means for temporary pumping may be required if the impairment time is unacceptable to the local authority.

A fire pump or fire pump controller replacement project will generally include not only the fire protection discipline, but also electrical and fire alarm disciplines. Be sure to engage a reputable consultant to protect the health and safety of your building and its occupants.

*National Fire Protection Association

As technical director for fire protection, Eric Lee freely shares his expertise and industry knowledge to advance ESD’s mission to improve society through the built environment.

Reach out Eric and ESD’s team of experts for solutions to your fire protection needs.