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Key changes to the 2014 edition of NFPA 25.
NFPA Journal®, May/June 2013
By Matt Klaus
NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, focuses on wear-and-tear issues that can decrease the function of a water-based fire protection system and lead to ineffective system operation. Water-based systems have an excellent record of reliability, and most of the instances where these systems are ineffective or fail to operate involve causes that are easily preventable. According to NFPA data, 63 percent of systems that fail to operate are the result of the water supply being turned off. Lack of routine maintenance is another important factor in unsatisfactory system performance. An inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) program like the one outlined in NFPA 25 — including a new valve status test proposed for the 2014 edition — is an easy way to maintain the reliability of these systems.
NFPA's Matt Klauss details some of the important changes fo the 2014 edition of NFPA 25.
Keeping up with the evolution of NFPA 25 is important, and the 2014 edition features an assortment of major changes. Those include ITM provisions for pump-related inspections; fuel supply testing for diesel-driven fire pumps; the definition of “sprinkler system”; inspecting the insides of sprinkler pipes; an expansion of the standard’s scope to include water-mist systems; new ITM provisions added for NFPA 13D systems in residential board and care occupancies; and the addition of valve-status testing to ensure that water is reaching the sprinkler system.
Anyone present at the NFPA Annual Technical Meeting in Las Vegas in 2010 no doubt recalls the debate over whether to change the frequency for electric-driven fire pump operating tests from weekly to monthly in the 2011 edition. This change, which was made, was very controversial. On one side were the pump experts and contractors who believed that weekly testing was a key factor in giving fire pumps their stellar performance record for reliability. On the other side were the people who had to pay for 52 operating tests a year, as opposed to 12, for a slight increase in reliability.
Following the publication of the 2011 edition, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) initiated a project to look at the collection of fire pump data that would settle the debate on the proper frequency of fire pump operating tests. The research project used the failure rate for diesel and electric fire pumps to calculate the reliability for each pump type based on both weekly and monthly testing.
Fire pump operating test frequency
Chapter 8, which addresses fire pump-related ITM provisions in NFPA 25, underwent some of the most significant changes for the 2014 edition.
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RELATED CONFERENCE SESSIONS
Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion: An Overview
Monday, June 10, 8–9 a.m.
Applying NFPA 25: Design Evaluation vs. ITM
Monday, June 10, 9:30–10:30 a.m.
NFPA 25, 2014 Edition:
What is New and Different?
Tuesday, June 11, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems Certificate
Saturday and Sunday, June 8–9
Changes to NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems (2014 Edition)
Friday, June 14, 8 a.m.–noon
The debate over the previous edition spilled over into the development of the 2014 edition. After reviewing this information at both of the committee meetings, the NFPA 25 technical committee made a few modifications to the requirements for operating tests in section 8.3. For diesel pumps, the baseline requirements did not change and the operating test must still be conducted weekly. The committee did add a provision that allowed for an alternate test frequency to be used when the revised frequency is supported by a risk analysis.
The requirements for electric-driven pumps were more substantially modified. Based on the data gathered from the FPRF project, it was determined that not all pumps, and more specifically the buildings that house them, would benefit from reducing the number of operating tests per year from 52 to 12. The technical committee decided that, either due to the risk associated with the building or the type or arrangement of pump for controller, certain fire pump arrangements needed to be tested more frequently. As such, the 2014 edition of NFPA 25 will require electric-driven pumps in high-rise buildings, electric-driven vertical turbine pumps, and pumps using limited service controllers to undergo weekly operating tests. For all other electric-driven fire pumps, a monthly operating test is still appropriate. The risk analysis that can be conducted for diesel-driven pumps also applies to electric driven pumps.
Diesel fuel quality check
Another hot topic in Chapter 8 was that of testing of the fuel supply for diesel-driven fire pumps. This concept was discussed at the first committee meeting and was rejected by the committee, but during the report-on-comments meeting the idea was resurrected, and now an annual test to analyze the quality of the fuel is required.
Water and other materials such as waxes, soaps, and additives can contribute to steel tank corrosion and the development of microbiological growth at the fuel and water interface. The development of microbiological growth can lead to damaged systems components and the potential failure of the pump. The cost of conducting the fuel quality test was considered to be reasonable, less than $100 for test materials, and the benefits to the system and avoidance of potential impairments were justified.
Definition of ‘sprinkler system’
During the revision cycle that generated the 2013 edition of NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, the technical committee responsible for the definition of a “sprinkler system” modified it to essentially define a system as the piping network downstream of a control valve, water source, flow switch, and drain. In the case of high-rise buildings, the system piping that is downstream of a floor control valve assembly (FCVA) is now defined as a “sprinkler system”.
Putting this new concept in to practice, consider a 50-story building that is sprinklered throughout. The entire building was once considered to be protected by a single sprinkler system. With the revised definition, the building is now considered to have 50 sprinkler systems, one on each floor.
That NFPA 13 definition for “sprinkler system” has been added to the 2014 edition of NFPA 25. The impact of this change is that wherever the standard requires an ITM task to be completed for a “system,” it will need to be done for each floor of the building that has a FCVA, or each portion of a building that is sectioned off by a control valve, flow switch, and drain. The greatest impact for the application of this definition would be the internal assessment required by 14.2.1 and 14.2.2, where every other floor of a high-rise building would need to have an internal assessment every five years. In previous editions of the standard, the common application of this provision was to open the system and conduct an internal inspection in two or three areas of the building. This approach is no longer appropriate due to the modification of the definition, which now requires the system to be opened up on every other floor as described in 14.2.2.
Owners who do not wish to conduct the assessment on every other floor of a building every five years would need to illustrate that an alternate assessment program is appropriate through a risk assessment.
Chapter 14 of NFPA 25 saw a significant modification related to conducting what the 2011 edition referred to as an “internal inspection.” The concept of an internal inspection will now be referred to as an “internal assessment,” which includes looking inside the pipe for potential material degradation, obstructions, and the development of organic growth that can have a negative impact on the performance of sprinkler systems.
This concept was removed from the standard during the first committee meeting, but it was brought back for discussion later in the process and included a significant change from the 2011 edition. The 2014 edition requires these assessments to be conducted every five years — the same frequency as in the 2011 edition — except that an owner can modify this frequency based on a risk analysis that considers the building’s history and potentially its geographic location.
The internal assessment was originally added as a way to identify organic growth inside the system piping, such as zebra and quagga mussels that are historically found in the Great Lakes region and along the Mississippi River. Other sprinkler systems can be susceptible to organic growth because they draw from raw water sources. For installations that have no history of organic growth, are located in geographic regions where sprinkler systems are not prone to organic growth, or that use treated or filtered water, a revised internal assessment frequency may be appropriate pending the proper analysis. It is important to note that this assessment must be conducted for each sprinkler system, which would be each floor of a building that has a floor control valve assembly.
Water mist systems
Historically, NFPA 25 had extracted the ITM requirements for water mist systems from NFPA 750, Water Mist Fire Protection Systems. Following a review of the scope of the technical committees by the NFPA Standards Council, however, “water mist systems” was added to the scope of the Technical Committee for Inspection Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Systems. As a result, the ITM requirements for water mist systems now fall under NFPA 25.
This modification is more organizational than technical, but users of the codes should know that the information will be found in NFPA 25 and will no longer be contained in NFPA 750.
Residential board and care occupancies
Chapter 1 of NFPA 25 clearly states that sprinkler systems installed according to NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, do not fall under the purview of the standard. This is due to the relative simplicity of the 13D system and the limited number of components requiring inspection and maintenance activities when compared to systems installed in larger, more complex commercial environments. As a result, NFPA 25 has explicitly excluded 13D systems from its scope.
Over the years, however, other occupancies that are not simple one- and two-family homes, such as assisted living facilities, group homes, and various types of short-term residential shelters, have begun allowing NFPA 13D systems to be installed as a means of providing safe but cost-effective sprinkler system coverage. NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, permits this arrangement for “small residential board and care facilities.” Since NFPA 25 does not govern this type of system, NFPA 101 provided a series of ITM requirements for this application, referring back to NFPA 25 for the tasks and frequencies. A new chapter detailing the ITM requirements for small residential board and care facilities has been added to NFPA 25, allowing owners and inspectors who typically look to NFPA 25 for ITM tasks to also find information that would otherwise only be located in NFPA 101.
Valve status test
As noted at the outset, the most common cause of a sprinkler system’s failure to operate is a closed valve preventing water from reaching the system. To address this common problem, the 2014 edition of NFPA 25 will now require a valve status test to be conducted whenever a valve is returned to service. This simple test allows the owner, inspector, or facility manager to confirm that not only do the valves appear to be open, but also that water is in fact flowing through the control valve that had been recently closed.
The purpose of completing a valve status test is to verify that the control valves upstream of the test connection are not closed. It does not provide an absolute assurance of an unobstructed water flow or fully opened valves; instead, it provides a reasonable check against a fully closed valve or dropped valve gate within the water supply upstream of the test. This test does not add a significant cost to the ITM program for a building, as it only takes a few minutes. Many inspection companies have been conducting valve status tests for years as a way of adding another layer of quality control.
Matt Klaus is a senior fire protection engineer at NFPA.