A fire pump is an essential piece of equipment in many buildings to ensure high water pressure is available in the event of a fire. Fire pumps require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure they meet minimum code requirements. The fire protection professional and the building owner should all be involved in the selection of the right pump for a particular application, as this will help guarantee the most effective final installation.
A good fire pump is rated in terms of PSI (pressure) and GPM (gallons per minute). The higher the number of GPM, the more water the pump can move over a period of time. Fire fighting requires very high GPM, while wash down and AG/Sprinkler systems generally do not.
Most fire pumps are portable and run on a gas or diesel engine. It is important to make sure the pump can be easily started and stopped in an emergency. The pump should also be easy to keep clean. The nozzles should be located on the outside of the fire pump to allow for quick attachment. Hoses should be rolled out rather than unfolded and coiled, which will take less space. Hoses should be color-coded so they are easy to distinguish between different types. For example, the small diameter fast-action hoses may be yellow, which makes them easy to identify from the red 1 1/2″ discharge hoses.
One of the most important things a fire department can do is to perform a friction loss calculation for each pre-established hose configuration on the apparatus. This can be done using a hydraulic test and is a very accurate method of determining how much friction the hose line has lost. This can be very useful to the department to know how many feet of hose can be used in an emergency.
Another factor that can have a large impact on the flow rate of a fire pump is the size and location of the water tanks. In some cases it may be necessary to place the tanks on a pedestal, which can greatly reduce the amount of water lost due to friction in the piping system.
In addition, it is best to keep the tanks above the level of the fire pump. This will provide a gravity assist and increase the available water volume, as well as help to keep the fire pump from being contaminated with fuel or other debris.
The most important thing to remember is that fire pump and jockey pumps should only be used for emergency purposes. When the pumps are not being used, they should be shut off and locked out. A hydropneumatic accumulator, which is now required under the latest edition of standard 23,500:2021, can be a useful addition to a fire pump for maintaining pressure in the water distribution network for the FP system. This will prevent the pump from constantly starting and stopping, which can cause damage to the pumps and hoses, and create unnecessary wear and tear on the engine.