Completing Your New Construction Test

We get a LOT of questions — both in advance, in the field, and afterwards (when we’re planning a re-do after someone drops the ball), so here’s the skinny of what we see, know of, and should be planned for when setting up a test of new construction before occupancy.  A lot of this is based on NFPA 14 – Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems – but there is crossover to related standards, most notably, NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.

To pull this test off successfully, you need…

A Water Source. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.  We show up with a full tank (typically 750 gallons in most of our trucks).  That, my friends, ain’t enough water for this test.  Your options to boost what we carry:

  • Fire hydrant water metersNearby fire hydrants. They’re great: unlimited supply of water, but you need to arrange for legal access.  Chat up the local water district for their procedure to use the hydrant.
    • You’ll likely be issued (or renting) one or more water meters.  For large flows, keep in mind a single 2.5″ water meter — with the backflow widgets inside — likely will not deliver a large water flow.
  • A water truck. This can both augment the water supply of our pumper engine, and become a water collection point… once the pipes are flushed and we’re not just recirculating debris.  This does require the water truck have a means of pumping the water out – if we need to “draft” it out, that requires rigid/non-collapsing hoses and that the two vehicles are parked within 20 feet from discharge to intake. Water trucks or water services. This is probably also the most expensive of options.
  • A “homemade hydrant.”  This requires some engineering and planning of parts and equipment, but essentially, convert the incoming water supply into a water source. (It’s already metered for the property, and “just” needs to be outfitted with the contraptions to offer a connection.)  A bit more detail on this approach can be found in this posting.

bridge over fire hosesAs a rule, running hoses across the street or driveways is frowned upon all around. This creates a traffic hazard to drivers, as well as introduces water hammer effects when vehicles drive over hoses, regardless of the speed.  (There’s also risk to damage to hoses or the pumper under a number of possible scenarios.) IF it’s unavoidable, you’ll need to plan for traffic control, or if construct a means to move vehicle and/or pedestrian traffic OVER the hoses safely.

 

 

fire engine pump panelA Pumper Engine. That’s us, so that’s one you can check that off your list.  (We haul in the typical fire engine’s load of hoses, adapters and fittings, as well as a Hose Monster diffuser with gauge and, for new construction tests, a trio of inline pressure gauges as well.) Our engines rated at either 1250 GPM or 1500 GPM and carry in 750 gallons in the tank (with few exceptions; those few engines are 500 gallon tanks).

‘Course, this requirement (NFPA 14 (2016) 11.5.2, use of a pumper) can be waived by the local fire authority per 11.5.2.1… so exceptions to many things exist, providing the local fire marshal or inspector is the authority providing that exception.

Gauges and Test Devices. For new construction, we carry a set of three inline gauges, which can be placed at the rooftop and capture the flowing pressure… presumably, because we’ll need to deal with that water discharge (more below on that).  If you’re throwing standard, caution and good names to the wind, a Hose Monster diffuser with a gauge can also be used, or better yet, a diffuser with de-clorination features built in.  (The branded Hose Monster diffusers do not have this feature.)

Water Discharge.  Where’s all that water going? If we’re testing a structure with two dry standpipes, that’s 750 gallons of water.  Per minute.  That’s a LOT of water, and it needs to go somewhere.  declorination tabletsIf it’s destined for any sort of drain, it needs to be de-clorinated, which involves additional equipment and planning.  (And this being California as we ‘celebrate’ 5+ years of continuous drought, City Hall will likely get calls if we all start dumping water down the gutter – not only is that outside the test guidelines, it’s also just being a bad neighbor.)

  • If you’re running hoses from the roof back down, how?
  • Keep in mind draping them over the edge of the building may result in undue wear and tear on the hoses, but more important to you and your customer is the building: the hoses can bend metal flashings, rub off new paint, “jump” around angled roofs and new roofing materials, etc.
  • If we’re running hoses down the stairwell, it’s a bunch of hose, but is there construction, resident or service/utility personnel using those stairs?
  • Do stairs need signage to warn of the hazard, or need to be closed to others’ use during the test?

An Understanding of the Test.  At its heart, the initial test before occupancy is “…to ensure that systems will work as intended to deliver adequate and reliable water supplies in a fire emergency.”  As a reasonable, responsible tester, you’ve already flushed the system, but that’s at a pressure and flow rate well below what the fire department crews will be using during fire suppression operations in the event of a working fire.  (Fire nozzles generally require a minimum of 100 PSI to deliver the proper stream/spray and water pressure… anything less creates undue risk to firefighters, residents, and the property itself in the event of fire.)

500 GPM is required to be flowed at the most hydraulically remote point, and 250 GPM at each additional standpipe.  So yup, if you’ve got two, 750 GPM, three means 1,000 GPM… you get the idea. The requirements for a specific property may be altered based on system design, elevation, fire marshal requirements.  What you want to avoid with a passion: NOT knowing what the system is designed to deliver.  (We can’t tell you 100%, and the fire department won’t be pleased if we’re looking to them, moments before the test, for what the system is designed to do.  Blueprints and design documents, review ’em in advance.)

FDC Pressure SignPressure Signage. Most local fire departments have a standard where arriving fire crews will pump into an FDC, say, 150 PSI.  If we need to pump at a pressure in excess of that number to complete the test, local fire officials will usually require the FDC to have signs posted to ensure that the proper pressure is delivered by firefighters in an emergency to deliver the 100 PSI needed throughout each standpipe.

Obviously, the sign is ‘homework’ for you or the property owner AFTER we’re done, and we’ll share with you what pressure we needed to deliver in order to meet the flow and pressure requirements for the successful test.

A Flexible Attitude.  Because let’s face it, when you get people, procedures, paperwork and water into the same room, a creative and can-do approach is going to get you way further than the opposite viewpoint.

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