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.