Despite changes in NFPA standards, Factory Mutual Research continues to hold approved fire pump manufacturers accountable for the complete fire pump package, such as this diesel driven horizontal split-case centrifugal fire pump.
"With hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property at stake, you can't wait for a breakdown to decide who is responsible for your fire pump repairs," stressed Roger Allard, P.E., manager of Factory Mutual Research's Hydraulics Laboratory in West Glocester, RI. "That's why we require manufacturers of approved fire pumps to provide the complete fire pump package and be responsible for that package both during and after installation."

According to Allard, fire pumps have been a "hot" area of activity lately, including:

  • Development of several new approval standards,

  • Revisions to existing standards,

  • An increase in demand for approvals among international manufacturers, and

  • The continued emphasis on manufacturer accountability for fire pump package performance.

Firm Standards Benefit Customers

Allard's reference to Factory Mutual Research's requirement that approved fire pump manufacturers maintain responsibility for the complete fire pump package is a critical benefit provided to customers by the Factory Mutual Research approval mark. While both U.S. and international standards are either vague or have eliminated the issue of accountability for fire pump performance, Factory Mutual Research maintains a firm position when it comes to manufacturer responsibility.

For instance, prior to 1987, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 20, Installation of Centrifugal Fire Pumps, stated that "the pump, driver, and controller shall be purchased under unit contract stipulating compliance with this standard (NFPA 20) and satisfactory performance of the entire unit when installed

Fire Pump Basics

Most large highly protected risk (HPR) facilities insured by FM Global are equipped with sprinkler systems with fire pumps. These systems are typically installed during new construction or as a retrofit. The rationale for installing a fire pump can vary and include:

  • The public water supply cannot provide enough volume and/or pressure.

  • The original use of the building has changed and fire risk has increased, requiring a higher delivered density from sprinkler heads.

  • The volume/pressure of the public water supply has been degraded by the demands of development.

A typical fire pump installation includes several components. All Factory Mutual Research Approval standards require the pump manufacturer to use approved components in the installation. These components usually include a:

  • Fire pump designed to handle the type of water supply available (e.g., vertical turbine for wells or ponds; horizontal split-case for public mains)

  • Pump driver, which can be an electric motor or diesel engine

  • Controller for the automatic operation of the pump driver

  • Gear drive for transmitting power from the pump driver to the pump itself

  • Water relief valve to relieve or limit excess pressure in the event of diesel engine over speed

  • Storage tank (pump suction tank), which provides adequate water volumes when municipal water supplies are not sufficient in volume and/or pressure (fire pumps may also draw from natural or man-made ponds or streams).

--Factory Mutual Research