2016 Changes to the NFPA 20

Steven Brown presented to the AFSA Mid-Atlantic Chapter on NFPA 20, and the changes between the 2013 and 2016 editions in Newark, DE on January 21, 2016. While covering the changes to the 2016 edition, Steven also discussed key items from each chapter that while not necessarily new, are certainly often overlooked or misunderstood.

A discussion about what is new to 2016 is actually quite useful, since NFPA 20 no longer annotates the codebook to indicate what wording has been modified, added, or deleted.

New to the 2016 edition of NFPA 20 is the concept of a multi-stage, multiport pump. This type of pump is not often seen in the United States, and is basically a pump with more than one discharge flange. Since Factory Mutual no longer permits using fire pumps in series, there is a renewed interest in the concept of a pump which can serve more than one zone in high rise buildings, and do so without using more than one pump, motor, or engine.

12.fire-17One topic that was introduced in 2013 and remains in 2016 is the concept that fire pump rooms must be appropriately sizes (see – 2016 edition) with proper clearance for operation, testing, and for maintenance. With the economic pressures in the construction industry to minimize the square footage of a fire pump room, this paragraph will require more front-end planning of the proper space required. Manufacturers of fire pumps should be consulted early on in the design process to avoid conflicting with this requirement. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Can I have access to this equipment in order to work on it?”

There are several other gems located in Chapter 4 of NFPA 20. Designers and installers of fire pumps should focus first on this chapter, as it presents some requirements that are often missed or overlooked. The requirements of proper piping on both suction and discharge (see, the proper rating of discharge piping (see, 4.16.3), the limits of when you can or cannot use a main relief valve (, and or pressure reducing valve (4.16.11).

Steven pointed out that many of the design challenges facing people in the industry cannot be fully addressed without a good command of fire pump curve fundamentals, which were also covered in detail.

A sampling of new requirements for 2016 that were discussed include the following:

  • A water level detector is required for testing and installation of vertical turbine fire pumps (see
  • Single phase motors on fire pumps are limited to across-the-line starting only (see
  • Fire pump controllers are required to be set up to automatically start, run, and shut down on their own in accordance with the NFPA 25, in an attempt to monitor the pressure transducer accuracy (see,,, and
  • The concept of “Fuel Supply Maintenance” systems are introduced, and if used, a list of visible indication is required to indicate when fuel cleaning is needed (see
  • A new 1 inch NPT port will be required on new fuel tanks so that a Fuel Supply Maintenance” system can be installed if required (see
  • Specific procedures are mandated for filling diesel fuel tanks with the goal of preventing overfilling (see
  • An additional high cooling water temperature alarm and visible indication is required on diesel controllers (see
  • More calibration is now required for testing equipment and measuring devices (see
  • A more precise field measurement of flow readings for vertical turbine fire pumps are mandated (

While many jurisdictions follow earlier editions of NFPA 20, we will continue to keep a close watch on the requirements of the most current editions of NFPA 20 to stay ahead of the requirements, and to keep our customers informed.

We certainly appreciate being invited to speak to AFSA, and will look forward to future presentations soon.