What Is a Fire Pump?

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A fire pump is a component of water-based fire protection systems that increases the pressure (measured in psi or bar) of a water supply to meet system demand. These pumps can be powered by electric, diesel or steam and can supply fire sprinklers, standpipes, foam systems and water spray/mist systems.

A fire pump must be UL Listed and FM Approved to ensure that it can handle peak performance demands during a fire emergency. These requirements are established by Underwriters Laboratories and Factory Mutual, whose stamp of approval means that the manufacturer has met their rigorous testing standards, along with those of NFPA 20: Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection.

NFPA 20 has specific requirements that must be met for fire pumps to be approved, including the ability to provide a minimum of 160 psi at rated flow with 140% churn. This enables the fire pump to deliver a high volume of water at a high rate of speed to meet the demand of a fire. The pump must also be capable of operating at a very low pressure for short periods to allow the valves to close quickly to limit water loss.

In order to operate, a fire pump must be provided with a driver to turn the impeller and spin the shaft that provides water to the systems it supplies. There are three types of drivers outlined in NFPA 20, including electrical motors, diesel engines and steam turbine systems. Electrical motors are the most commonly used type of driver for fire pumps due to their ease of operation and cost-effectiveness.

Fire pumps can be installed in many types of buildings. Depending on the type of building, there may be special requirements for fire suppression systems. For example, a fire pump is often needed in high-rise offices, where the sprinkler system demand can exceed what the water supply is capable of delivering under normal conditions. These systems are also common in large storage warehouses to help create the water pressure required to contain a fire.

Regardless of the type of building, all fire pumps must be regularly inspected, tested and maintained to ensure that they are in optimal condition during a fire emergency. This includes weekly inspections by in-house personnel, as well as monthly “churn” tests and annual flow tests by a qualified fire safety professional. While we hope that these systems will never need to be used, it is important for facility owners and managers to make sure they are able to respond quickly and effectively to a fire in their facility. To ensure that they can do so, they should look for a UL Listed and FM Approved fire pump with a horsepower curve that has a continuous rise until it shuts off, meeting the required requirements of NFPA 20. This ensures that the fire pump is ready to work at a moment’s notice.

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