Jacqueline Wilmot: Standpipes installed at marinas and piers face unique challenges
The 2019 edition of NFPA 14 includes an entire new chapter on fire protection for maritime standpipes and hose systems.
With winter in full swing, do you find yourself dreaming of a warm summer day on a pier with a drink in your hand?
Many of us can picture this. And those of us in the fire-protection world find ourselves examining some of the fire-protection features wherever we may be, and that includes on vacation. Whether that’s finding a second exit, staring at the sprinkler spacing, reading the inspection tags of fire extinguishers, and, yes, even analyzing hose-connection and standpipe locations. These are some examples of the fire-protection and life-safety components commonly investigated to determine if the area you are exploring is “code compliant.”
If you can still picture yourself sitting on a pier and observing the standpipe locations, which code are you using in your mind to determine if the standpipe is compliant? NFPA 14, Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems, probably comes first to mind; NFPA 303, Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards, might also be on your short list, as this document provides a minimum acceptable level of safety to life and property from fire and electrical hazards at marinas and related facilities. Which standard do you use?
The answer is both. For years, NFPA 303, which is referenced in many building codes, contained its own requirements for standpipes and would direct its readers to NFPA 14 for the installation of standpipes for maritime applications. However, NFPA 14 did not specifically address the installation of standpipes for marinas and other similar facilities, creating a loophole for users and authorities having jurisdictions. Why couldn’t an individual use the typical provisions in NFPA 14 that apply to standpipes on land?
The environment in and of itself comes first to mind. Standpipes installed in such locations are subject to extreme temperatures and corrosion if installed in salt water. If installed on floating docks or other structures subject to movement, standpipes need to be flexible. In addition to the environmental factors, marinas and related facilities are frequently located in remote areas, isolated from public protection and not easily accessible to community fire equipment. Ongoing maintenance required to take place on piers, including welding, fiberglassing, painting and paint removal, creates additional hazards in these unique locations.
The good news is the 2019 edition of NFPA 14 addresses the specific provisions that need to be applied for the installation of standpipes and hose systems on marinas, boatyards, wharfs, docks and piers. NFPA Technical Committee members from both the NFPA 14 and NFPA 303 technical committees decided to take action in the last revision cycle and ensure NFPA 303 and NFPA 14 were speaking to each other and contain consistent provisions to address this issue.
In addition, the 2019 edition of NFPA 14 includes an entire new chapter (Chapter 13), which provides a reasonable degree of protection for life and property from fire for maritime standpipes and hose systems based on sound engineering principles, test data and field experience.
Although not every subsection can be addressed in this article, here are some of the major points:
Chapter 13 kicks off with the types of materials permitted for pipe, tube and fittings. Before the 2019 edition, the existing language in NFPA 14 allowed for copper and galvanized piping as the only real options for corrosion resistance. However, Table 13.2.1 now allows nonmetallic options, which allows piping to be installed and hopefully last longer in areas subjected to harsh and corrosive atmospheres.
The next major subsection provides the minimum provisions for the system requirements, including the location and protection of piping. Since these standpipes are being installed on maritime applications, it is important that the piping is permitted to be installed above or below piers docks and similar structures. However, if using nonmetallic piping for anything other than water-filled systems, the portion of the piping system above the surface of the water needs to be metallic piping that is resistant to corrosive elements.
The piping installed in these environments needs to be protected from mechanical and fire damage as well. This could include protection by steel posts or concrete barriers; seismic bracing, where required; and corrosion-resistive coating for piping exposed to corrosive conditions, ensuring plastic piping is protected from fire exposure and confirming that piping has sufficient flexibility where standpipes are installed on piers, docks or similar structures subject to movement.
Provisions for fire-department connections (FDCs) are next on the list. Listed check valves are required to be installed on each FDC, and in an accessible location. The FDC itself is required to be in a location that is visible from the street or nearest point of the fire department apparatus accessibility. In addition, FDCs are required to be located within 100 feet from the nearest fire hydrant or approved water supply, unless the AHJ permits an increased allowance. These are simple “no-brainer” requirements, but think back to the setting of which a pier is located which can be isolated from public protection and not easily accessible to community fire equipment. These provisions are critical for any potential firefighting efforts. Signage is also key in helping firefighters quickly identify the type of standpipe system they will be working with (i.e., manual dry standpipe, wet standpipe etc.).
A means for draining the system is also required to be provided for all portions of the standpipe system that cannot be drained from the main drain. This allows for proper inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) work. The last subsection within Chapter 13 addresses ITM for standpipe systems and requires the systems installed to be properly inspected, tested and maintained by the property owner or an authorized representative in accordance with NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection Testing and Maintenance of Water- Based Fire Protection Systems, to provide at least the same level of performance and protection as originally designed.
So while you are dreaming of or actually sitting on a pier with the sun on your face and a drink in your hand, now you know which codes and sections to review to determine if the closest hose connection and standpipe system is code compliant!
Additional provisions regarding the design criteria for hose connections, minimum sizes for standpipes and branch lines, minimum design pressure, and flow rates also can be found in the new Chapter 13 of NFPA 14.