#123 – Manual Standpipes and Acceptance Testing Methods

by William Strickler

Class 3 StandpipeWhen installing a new manual wet or dry standpipe system, what is your company’s preferred method of completing an acceptance flow test? Do you rent or own a portable pump that is capable of achieving such designed flow rates typically associated with standpipe flow testing? Do you coordinate with the local fire department either full-time or volunteer to provide a pumper truck to aid in achieving desired flow rate? There may even be some out there who use some other method that has been approved by the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) that works great for them. I am sure no matter what method you prefer we can all agree on the importance of acceptance testing new standpipe installations.

Referencing Fire Tech Productions’ Automatic Sprinkler & Standpipe Systems Course will help us answer the basic question, “What is a standpipe system?”  A standpipe system is a fire hydrant system inside a building.

The purpose of a standpipe system is to allow fire fighters to connect hose to a water source and manually fight a fire without having to run the hose all the way from the street into the building, and up through the building to get to the fire.

The NFPA 14 2016 edition provides three methods or “recommended” procedures to reach the field acceptance flow testing requirement found in A.11.5.2 (A-C).

  • Testing with pump through Fire Department Connection (FDC) [A.11.5.2(a)]: Includes a hydrant, fire department pumper truck, hoses and flow calculating discharge devices. The fire department pumper truck or portable pump receives water from the hydrant and pumps the water into the standpipe system through the FDC to the most remote standpipe hose valves and any other required flow outlet in the system to reach system demand. The water would then be discharged through flow calculating devices.

  • Testing by recirculating water [A.11.5.2(b)]: Includes in-line flow meters, fire department pumper truck or portable pump, hoses and/or drain lines able to tie back into fire department pumper truck/portable pump, but no hydrant or water discharge.  The fire department pumper would pump into the standpipe system through the FDC and the in-line flow meters would be located at the most remote and other required areas for flow testing the standpipe system. From the discharge side of the in-line flow meters the hoses would be tied back into a drain line or have other hoses running back to the fire department pumper truck or to a portable pumping unit to be recirculated back into the system until the test is complete.

  • Testing through the Fire Department Connection (FDC) without pump [A.11.5.2(c)]: Includes a hydrant, hoses and discharge devices, but no fire department pumper or portable pump. The hydrant sends water through the FDC into the standpipe system where it is then discharged at the most remote hose valves and other required hose valves to reach system demand.

Building Standpipe HoseThe standpipe systems are a firefighter’s main source of water in multiple story buildings

The above methods are the most common practices I have witnessed during my time in the field. I am sure there are several different ways or combinations of the above methods that are used every day, but these seem to be the most popular. In my experience, we like to get the local fire department involved every chance we can. After all, we are in the same business of saving lives and the standpipe systems are a firefighter’s main source of water in multiple story buildings. Many fire departments jump at the chance for this training, as it provides them the opportunity to become familiar with the new building and the standpipe system that would need to be used in an emergency.

Regardless of the method you prefer or are required to do, I believe we can all agree on the importance of testing standpipes — both automatic and manual systems alike. As contractors in the fire sprinkler industry we are responsible for providing a standpipe system installed and tested according to the NFPA and AHJ standards, so that the local fire departments who respond to these systems will be able to perform their duties and come out the same way they went in.

Keep up the great work and let’s keep saving lives and property!!

Will Strickler has 14-years’ experience in the Fire Sprinkler Industry. He is a Facilities Management Technician at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and an Instructor for Fire Tech Productions.