Sep 07 2017

Monthly Test vs. Weekly Test of Fire Pumps

Category: Fire Pump,Questions and Answers,TestingBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Electric fire pumps needed to be run once a week. Then that was changed to once a month. Now the new NFPA 25 has the pump being run once a week again. Is this correct? If my AHJ has adopted the most current code I need to follow that code and change my pump running from once a month back to weekly schedule?

A: Let’s look at the facts: The 2000 Life Safety Code referenced the 1998 edition of NFPA 25, which required all electric motor-driven fire pumps to be tested at no-flow on a weekly basis. The 2012 Life Safety Code references the 2011 edition of NFPA 25 which permits electric motor-driven fire pumps to be tested at no-flow on a monthly basis (see 8.3.1.2 of NFPA 25-2011).

Section 8.3.1.2.1 of the 2014 edition of NFPA 25, says: “Except as permitted in 8.3.1.2.2 and 8.3.1.2.3, a weekly test frequency shall be required for the following electric fire pumps:

  • Fire pumps that serve fire protection systems in high rise buildings that are beyond the pumping capacity of the fire department;
  • Fire pumps with limited service controllers;
  • Vertical turbine fire pumps;
  • Fire pumps taking suction from ground level tanks or a water source that does not provide sufficient pressure to be of material value without the pump.

 

Section 8.3.1.2.2 says a monthly test frequency shall be permitted for electric fire pumps not identified in section 8.3.1.2.1; and section 8.3.1.2.3 says monthly test frequency shall be permitted for electric fire pump systems having a redundant fire pump. So… since CMS adopted the2012 Life Safety Code on May 4, 2016 with an effective date of July 5, 2016, CMS and all of the accreditation organizations are on the 2011 edition of NFPA 25 which permits all electric motor-driven fire pumps to be tested monthly, without exceptions.

However, if one of your other AHJs adopted a more recent edition of the Life Safety Code that references the 2014 edition of NFPA 25, then you have an obligation to comply with the most restrictive requirements, which may be a weekly test of your fire pumps, if section 8.3.1.2.1 of NFPA 25-2014 applies to you.

In anticipation of your next questions, I do not know what “Fire pumps with limited service controllers” mean. If that is an issue for you, I suggest you contact your AHJ that is requiring you to comply with the 2014 edition of NFPA 25 and ask them to define it.


May 11 2017

Monthly Fire Pump Test

Category: Fire Pump,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Do we have to conduct a monthly flow test on fire pumps in healthcare?

A: No… NFPA 25-2011, section 8.3.1.2 requires monthly test of the electric-driven fire pump at no flow conditions, or what is commonly called ‘churn’. The test is started with the water pressure being reduced at the pressure switch controller until the pump starts. The pump is operated for 10 minutes with suction pressure and discharge pressure readings taken, along with confirmation that the pump shaft packing glands drip water (approximately 17 drips per minute, but follow manufacturer’s recommendations). The pump housing pressure relief valve is required to release water so you confirm that happens as well. Once the pump has operated for 10 minutes then it can be shut off. Engine driven fire pumps still have to be tested weekly for 30 minutes. A test where water is actually flowed is required annually on all fire pumps.


May 03 2017

Annual Fire Pump Test

Category: Fire Pump,Questions and Answers,TestingBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: I read where the annual fire pump test requires a 30-minute churn test but does not differentiate between a diesel or electric pump (as in the weekly test). NFPA 25, 2011 edition requires only a 10-minute churn for the annual test on an electric pump. What happened to the 30-minute churn test?

A: NFPA 25-1998 did require the annual fire pump flow-test for both electric-motor driven fire pumps and engine-driven fire pumps to have a 30-minute churn test at no-flow conditions to begin the test. This was to ensure the pressure relief valve opened to allow circulating water to cool the pump when operating at standby (i.e. no-flow) conditions.

Since CMS adopted the new 2012 LSC, we are now on NFPA 25-2011. Section 8.3.3.2(1) of NFPA 25-2011 dropped the requirement for a 30-minute churn test for the annual fire pump flow-test, but still requires the churn test; it just doesn’t specify how long the churn test must be. I can only surmise that the industry figured a churn test for 30 minutes to ensure the relief valve opens is no longer required.

However, section 8.3.3.2(3) says “For electric motor-driven pumps, the pump shall not be shut down until the pump has run for 10 minutes.” This statement is in reference to the pump operating at flow conditions, and is not a reference to how long the pump must run at no-flow conditions.

The new 2012 LSC is now being enforced by accreditation organizations and by CMS. For annual fire pump flow tests from now on, you may run the churn test portion long enough to ensure the relief valve opens and dumps water. You no longer have to run the churn test for any given length of time.


Jun 27 2016

Fire Pump ATS

Q: A state surveyor cited us for not doing a monthly fire pump automatic transfer switch (ATS) test. We are doing a weekly churn test and an annual fire pump flow test that includes switching over the ATS. I was not aware that this had to be done monthly.

A: Yes… NFPA 110-1999, section 6-4.5 requires all transfer switches in Level I and Level II systems (hospitals typically have Level I systems) to be tested monthly. The state surveyor is correct. I find that it is not uncommon for some hospitals to overlook the ATS serving the fire pump. I guess they don’t always see that it is part of the Level I emergency power supply system. Out-of-site is out-of-mind!


Apr 18 2016

Weekly Fire Pump Testing

Category: Fire Pump,Questions and Answers,TestingBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: The Joint Commission standard for weekly testing of the fire pump only requires us to record the test date of the inspection. We were cited for not recording the suction and discharge pressures. Is this a requirement?

A: Yes, recording the suction and discharge pressures, along with the amount of time required to start the weekly test (by lowering the water pressure) are required documentation for each weekly fire pump test. Even though these requirements are not specifically identified in the EC standards, they are identified in the NFPA 25 (1998 edition) which is referenced by the Joint Commission standards.

Get a copy and read the NFPA 25 (1998 edition) as it has a lot of testing requirements of the sprinkler system which are not identified in the Joint Commission standards, but are required.


Mar 18 2013

Fire Pump Annual Flow Test

Category: Fire Pump,Questions and Answers,TestingBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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Q: My sprinkler testing contractor is questioning the requirement that fire pumps are to be flow-tested annually at 150% load on emergency power. It’s the emergency power requirement in question. Quite frankly, I do not remember a Joint Commission surveyor ever asking to see this information, either. What are the actual requirements?

A: Section 19.3.5 of the 2000 edition of the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code (LSC) requires healthcare facilities that have sprinkler systems, to be in compliance with section 9.7. Section 9.7.5 requires all automatic sprinkler systems to be inspected, tested and maintained in accordance with NFPA 25 (1998 edition).  Among other requirements in NFPA 25, section 5-3 discusses what is required for annual water-flow testing of fire pumps. For those fire pumps that are equipped with an Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS), a loss of normal power is to be simulated when the pump is operating at peak capacity (150% of nameplate capacity) to cause a transfer to generator power. Another set of readings need to be documented to ensure the pump is still operating at peak flow capacity (150%) while operating under generator power. Then the power needs to be restored to the normal source to ensure the breakers do not trip. The above testing requirements are compulsory by the LSC, and if an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) chooses not to ask for this documentation, then that is their prerogative. However, since the typical hospital has 5 or 6 different AHJs inspecting them in accordance with the NFPA requirements, you can bet one of them will be asking to see these test results. It is better to be in compliance with the LSC and be prepared for that moment in time when you are asked to prove you did the annual flow test correctly, than to be embarrassed and say you didn’t do it because another AHJ did not ask to see the documentation.  Besides, it is a requirement, and if your testing contractor is not aware of these requirements, then perhaps the hospital may want to reconsider doing business with them.


Feb 18 2013

Fire Alarm Supervisory Signal Device

Category: Fire Alarm,Fire Pump,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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Q:  Are “fire pump running” and “fire pump power loss” switches which are connected to the hospital fire alarm system considered to be supervisory signal devices? I say they aren’t because these switches are not identified in the list of supervisory signal devices in NFPA 72 (1999 edition) section 2-9. However, a surveyor cited us for not testing these devices quarterly along with all of the other supervisory signal devices. What do you say?

A: According to sections 19.3.4.1 and 9.6.1.4 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code, compliance with NFPA 72 (1999 edition) is required. Just because those specific switches were not listed under section 2-9 of NFPA 72, does not exclude them from being considered supervisory signal devices. The definition of a Supervisory Signal Initiating device from NFPA 72, section 1-4, says: “An initiating device such as a supervisory switch, water level indicator, or low air pressure switch on a dry-pipe sprinkler system in which the change of state signals an off-normal condition and its restoration to normal of a fire protection or life safety system; or a need for action in connection with guard tours, fire suppression systems or equipment, or maintenance features of related systems.”  It is clear to see that a “power loss” and the “pump running” is a “change of state” on a piece of fire suppression equipment that would require a “need for action”, to investigate and resolve the issue. However, as mentioned before, it really doesn’t matter what I say, rather it matters more what the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) says and believes. It appears that the surveyor was thinking the fire pump running and power off switches are supervisory signal devices and need to be tested quarterly, and I would agree with the surveyor’s position.


Mar 04 2012

Replacement Fire Pump

Category: Fire Pump,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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Q: We recently replaced our old fire pump with a brand new unit that is up to date with the current requirements of NFPA 20 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Fire Pumps for Fire Protection. During a recent inspection by a consultant, he said the new fire pump had to be installed in its own room that has fire rated walls. We didn’t do that, and only installed the new pump in the exact same place as the old pump. Do you believe this will be a problem?

A: Well, this will invoke the old non-answer: “It depends”. It depends on what type of room the new pump was installed in, it depends on which authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) you talk to, and it may depend on when you installed the new fire pump. To be clear, NFPA 20 (1999 edition), section 2-7.1.1 does require the installation of new fire pumps to be separated from all other areas of the building by 2-hour fire rated construction if the building is not fully sprinklered, or 1-hour fire rated construction if the building is fully protected with automatic sprinklers. But, many AHJs will allow you to install new fire pumps in existing mechanical rooms provided the mechanical room meets the 2-hour or 1-hour fire rated construction requirements. Typically, Joint Commission will follow along with a new fire pump installation in an existing mechanical room as long as the project was submitted to and approved by the local and state AHJs. But in lieu of a state or local review and approval, then the Joint Commission will make an assessment and a decision on a case-by-case basis. The requirements of NFPA 20 are not retroactive to existing installations, meaning when the old fire pump was installed, it had to meet the code requirements that were in effect when it was approved for installation. The current NFPA 20 requirements for new installation cannot be enforced in existing situations. Joint Commission states in their Hospital Accreditation Standards that all projects that have been approved by the local AHJ prior to March 1, 2003, will be considered existing conditions.(CMS has a similar date of March 11, 2003 for the same designation of existing conditions.) Therefore, as far as Joint Commission is concerned, if the new fire pump was installed before March 1, 2003, they will consider it existing conditions and not require compliance with new installation requirements in NFPA 20. But your local and state AHJ may see this differently, and require the new fire pump installation to meet NFPA 20 requirements no matter when it was installed. My advice is to contact the local and state AHJs (if you haven’t already) and ask them if the pump needs to be installed in separate room with fire rated walls. You may be able to negotiate an answer that you all could agree on.


Sep 01 2011

Differing fire pump test requirements

Category: Fire Pump,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 8:43 pm
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Q: What is the requirement for water flow testing fire pumps under emergency power? I have heard some hospitals are being cited for not doing this, but a surveyor once told me they don’t ask to see that documentation. What is actually required?

A: Good question. Why don’t all AHJs require the same level of testing and inspections when it involves fire safety equipment? There are multiple answers for this problem:
•§ Not all AHJs know and understand the requirements of the codes
•§ Some AHJs purposely decide not to enforce some codes and standards
•§ People are people and some either forget to ask to see the documentation, or don’t feel it is important

Section 19.3.5.1 of the LSC requires compliance with section 9.7, which in turns requires compliance with NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems (1998 edition). NFPA 25 section 5-3.3.4 clearly states during the annual water flow test all electric-powered fire pumps that are connected to emergency power via a transfer switch must test the pump under emergency power at peak (150% of nameplate rating) capacity. This is not a new requirement and has been in the book for at least 15 years that I know of. My advice is to always perform this and all NFPA testing and inspection requirements even though one AHJ may not ask to see the results. The next AHJ knocking on your door may very well ask to look at that documentation.