Removal of a Water-Flow Switch

Q: We have a water-flow switch on the line that rises through a nursing wing stairwell and feeds the hose cabinets. There are no longer any hoses in the cabinets. Can we remove the flow switch? I don’t know if it’s relevant but our pump test manifold is also on this riser.  I am going on the fact that if the fire department hooks up to the hose riser hopefully we will know there is a fire!

A: I do not believe you are permitted to remove the waterflow alarm switches from the standpipes, and you still need to maintain them and test them. According to NFPA 14 (standard for the installation of standpipes), 2010 edition, says you must have waterflow alarms on standpipes required by the AHJ. The presumption here is the installation of the standpipe was required by some AHJ, or they would not have been installed. In hospitals, only high-rise buildings are required to have standpipe system, so if your facility qualifies as a high-rise, then I would say no. If you want to pursue this issue, you would need to have written approval from all the AHJs who govern your hospital, such as CMS, Joint Commission, the local AHJ, the state AHJ, and the insurance company. Not likely that they would all agree to let you remove the devices.

Standpipe Tests

Q: Is it mandatory that we perform a “Standpipe Hydrostatic and Flow Test” every 5 years?  We do not have a dry system.  Our system is full of water and has pressure on it at all times.  Our sprinkler installer stated (basically argued) that he could understand the need for it if we had a dry system, but we don’t.  So, I just need clarification, please.

A: You are describing two different tests for the standpipe system: A hydrostatic test and a flow-test. NFPA 25 (1998 edition) section 3-3.1.1 requires a flow-test be conducted once every 5 years on all standpipes. You must flow water at the hydraulically most remote location, which is usually the roof. The flow must be measured (in gallons per minute, or GPM) to determine if the flow is equal to the requirements when the standpipe was first installed. If the flow requirements at the time the standpipe was installed are not known, then the flow must equal 500 GPM.

Hydrostatic tests are required on all dry standpipes and dry portions of wet standpipes once every 5 years according to 3-3.2.1. The system must be pumped up with water pressure to 200 psi, or 50 psi over the maximum operating pressure where the maximum operating pressure is over 150 psi, for a minimum of 2-hours.

Conducting a hydrostatic test on a dry standpipe system is very cumbersome and at times, difficult. This is due to the lack of water in the standpipe system. Contractors must transport water to the dry standpipe and then pump it up to 200 psi, using a water pump. What NFPA did in subsequent editions of NFPA 25, is to allow air pressure testing on dry standpipe systems in lieu of hydrostatic pressure testing. But, Joint Commission and CMS are not on that newer edition of NFPA 25, and therefore this more convenient system of testing a dry standpipe is not available for hospitals today.

Even if you obtained special permission from Joint Commission to use air pressure testing in lieu of hydrostatic testing, it would not be acceptable to CMS. You must follow the most restrictive requirements of your authorities.

To answer your question directly… Yes you need to conduct a flow-test once every 5 years on your wet standpipe systems.