Q: Recently, I was at a counter-part’s facility in our corporate system and wanted to review the Life Safety Code documentation to ensure everything was in order. Within a matter of minutes I realized there was no fire pump paperwork and asked my counterpart about the matter. I was told that the fire pumps were removed: I was shocked. The reason for removing the fire pumps was because they were told by the city that if they had enough pressure on the top floor of their facility to run the suppression system, then they didn’t need a pump. The reasoning for this increase in pressure was due to an expansion of the water mains leading into the facility. I have never heard of this before! Have you ever heard of such a thing? How would the hospital be able to ensure that at any given time the pressure wouldn’t fluctuate and decrease?
A: I have heard of situations where the supply of the fire protection water changes, and the fire pump could be removed, but if what your counterpart is telling you is the full story, then I would advise them to take further action. The need for a fire pump in any building is not determined solely by the pressure of the water. There are multiple factors that must be considered in NFPA 13 that arrives at the decision whether a fire pump is required, and the volume and flow rate of water are a big part of the equation. Proper procedure would be to have the entire fire protection system water supply recalculated by a registered Professional Engineer to determine if the fire pump could be removed. For the hospital to make a major change in their fire protection based on the comment of a single authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is very irresponsible.
Once the design of the system calculates that the fire pump could be removed, then permission must be obtained from all of the AHJs that inspect the hospital for fire safety, such as:
- State fire marshal
- State department of public health
- Local fire inspector
- Accreditation organization
- Insurance company
Without written authorization granting permission to remove the fire pump from the appropriate AHJs, the hospital is at considerable risk if there should be an unfortunate incident involving the discharge of fire protection water. These AHJs approved the hospital’s fire protection plan based on the presence of a fire pump: To remove the fire pump without allowing these same AHJs the opportunity to make a comment is dangerous and likely unlawful.