The Constantly Evolving NFPA 25

No one can doubt the importance of having a properly functioning fire pump ready to operate when there is a fire.  But stationary fire pumps and their controllers spend the majority of their life not running at all – just sitting there.  If there is a problem with your automobile, chances are you will see this as it operates – not when it’s parked on the street.  So how to you ensure that equipment that is a) not running, b) located in a part of the building that is scarcely attended, and c) equipment that is rarely on anyone’s mind — but at the same time so crucial to life and property – is in proper working order and will operated as intended?  You test and operate it on a regular basis!  NFPA 25 helps guide you along the way.

If you are unfamiliar with the NFPA 25, it is the standard that governs the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems. Put forth in 1992, the NFPA 25 has evolved over the years, and covers evaluation techniques like fire sprinkler inspections, fire pump flow tests, and more. It is estimated that the effective use of the NFPA 25 can reduce the risk of death by 80%, as well as the average property loss by almost 70%. But lately this standard has come under question as to its adequacy in ensuring successful operation of these water-based fire protection systems.

There are several issues with the NFPA 25 that many have started to express their concerns with, and a symposium is even being hosted this December in Chicago to discuss these issues ahead of the 2017 revision cycle. Some of the most pressing questions being asked are:

  • Why do design issues, like areas not reached by a sprinkler, or spray pattern obstructions go unreported even after inspection by qualified personnel? Is it the inspectors job to notify the owner since this is supposed to be covered in the initial system setup through the NFPA 13?
  • What happens if owners delegate responsibility to outside contractors in ensuring the proper inspection, testing, and maintenance of their water-based fire protection systems, and the contractor only partially fulfills these responsibilities? This can occur because the agreed upon contract states that owners are responsible for the rest of the duties not covered, without fully realizing what is needed.
  • What happens if inspectors don’t inquire about the adequacy of the system? Some of the forms contractors use pose this question, but most do not.
  • Say the building has undergone changes, such as renovations. How can the owner be expected to have the knowledge about water-based fire protection systems in order to honor the responsibility of making sure these changes don’t affect the performance of the sprinkler system?
  • Do monthly inspections of valves need to examine more than just one possibility for a sprinkler failure?
  • How much of the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems can reasonably be expected of owners, and do they fully understand what is required?

As you can see, there are a surprisingly large number of important questions with regard to the effectiveness of the NFPA 25. This list only scratches the service of questions and topics that will likely be covered at the NFPA’s symposium in December. If you’d like to learn more, be sure to check out the NFPA’s website, or keep an eye on our blog page here for a follow-up in the future. Later articles will be presented here which focus on the specifics of NFPA 25 and how it covers the proper maintenance and testing of fire pumps, controllers, motors and engines, and how to best ensure that your equipment is ready to run when needed.