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Fire Pump Preventative Maintenance

Fire Pump Preventative Maintenance
Despite overwhelming evidence that sprinklers save lives, not every structure has them. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), sprinklers put out 92 percent of fires large enough to activate them. And the death rate of building occupants in a fire is 87 percent lower in properties with sprinklers than in properties with no automatic extinguishing system. Nursing homes and hospitals are the most likely types of businesses to have sprinkler systems (67%), while residences are the least likely (8%).

The Importance of Fire Pump Maintenance

The water pump in your building's fire-suppression equipment is one of the most critical parts of your sprinkler assembly because it determines the force and volume of the water. Consider it the “heart" of the building's system, in the same way your heart is the center of your body's circulatory system. That's why fire pump testing is a critical part of maintaining your structure's sprinkler system.

As with anything that needs to be exercised regularly—think about a car that sits dormant, or the water pipes in a vacant home, and yes, your heart—the pump for your fire-suppression system needs to run to make sure it's in fighting shape. It's especially important to monitor the health of the working pump in an older structure, or one that feeds from a decades-old municipal water supply (or private water tank). NFPA statistics show that sprinklers failed or weren't effective for a variety of reasons, including because the system shut off, water couldn't reach the fire, there wasn't enough water discharged, components were damaged and because the system wasn't maintained properly. Proper care and regular fire pump maintenance help to avoid all these issues.

Maintaining Your Fire Pump

The first place to start is by reviewing your local codes, as well as the NFPA testing and inspection requirements. You'll want to connect with a professional or one of your staff members trained to do this specifically. Be sure to notify any stakeholders (such as the fire department, on-site workers or security personnel) about testing so they can prepare. Pumps come in electric or diesel-fueled models and all should be tested weekly and monthly for automatic starting and seamless operations (without water) as well as any external obstructions that may impede performance.

You'll check for:

  • System suction and discharge pressure gauge readings
  • Leaks and discharges
  • Any unusual noises or vibrations
  • Packing boxes, bearings, or pump casing to make sure they're not overheating
  • Parts that need upgrading or replacing
  • The time it takes for the motor to reach full speed and any subsequent operations
  • For diesel pumps, check the time for the engine to crank and reach running speed, as well as oil pressure gauge, water, and oil temperatures while running
You'll also want to run more comprehensive tests annually, with water, to ensure that the pump is enabling the correct water flow.

Special Circumstances

Every system is different—there's no one-size-fits-all solution or schematic that works everywhere, so fire pump maintenance and testing will vary from structure to structure. A medical building might have a different system than one housing highly flammable materials; an IT company's data farm would require a different system than an elementary school. And if you're undergoing renovations or changing how different rooms in the structure are used (for example, if a file room becomes a break room), you'll want to make testing and adjusting your sprinkler system and pump part of the plan.

Wondering if your pump is up to the job? Call a professional inspector or your local fire marshal to get help. You can also connect with a Westfield agent to learn about other ways to make your building safer and protect its most important contents—the people within.