Author(s): Russell Leavitt. Published on May 2, 2016.

Good Housekeeping

A reorganized NFPA 25 aims to streamline and consolidate the standard while improving its usability


NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, is a relatively young standard. The first edition was published in 1992, and the 2017 edition will mark the seventh revision to the original document. NFPA 25 is widely adopted and continues to evolve and mature, and that increased visibility provides more data and input for the technical committee to use in improving the standard. The 2017 edition reflects this evolution, with changes intended to improve the usability of the standard and to enhance its ongoing goal of ensuring an acceptable level of life safety and property protection by the most efficient means possible.

NFPA Conference Session
NFPA Conference & Expo, Las Vegas, June 13-16, 2016

NFPA 25–2017, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems: Changes
Monday, June 13, 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM

William Koffel, Koffel Associates, Inc.

NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems: Compliant Impairment Programs
Monday, June 13, 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM

Jason Gamache, Liberty Mutual Insurance

NFPA 13, NFPA 25, Water Discharge, and the EPA—Case Study
Tuesday, June 14, 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Bruce Lecair, NFSA; Eric Gleason, NFSA

The NFPA standards development process is steeped in the concept of all stakeholders having a voice, and there is probably no NFPA standard with a broader range of active stakeholder interest—including property owners, enforcers, insurers, manufacturers, and service providers—than NFPA 25. When these stakeholders discuss a possible new requirement for the standard, the debate most often focuses on the requirement’s “reasonableness”—is the cost of doing (or not doing) something offset by the benefit derived? Nowhere is this concept more evident than in the maintenance of a fire protection system. NFPA 25’s evolution has been driven by its purpose to “ensure a reasonable degree of protection for life and property from fire,” and the proposed changes to the 2017 edition were made with this same principle in mind.

Simplified chapter formatting

Many of the changes to the 2017 edition address issues of usability. (As of this writing, the standard had not yet been finalized; all changes mentioned here are based on the second draft report as delivered by the technical committee.) It is important to recognize that the first edition of NFPA 25 was developed from existing documents that contained inspection, testing, and maintenance activities, such as NFPA 13A, Recommended Practice for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Sprinkler Systems, and NFPA 14A, Recommended Practice for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Standpipe and Hose Systems. Many of the original tables and much of the text from these documents were brought into NFPA 25 and never substantially revised. As new tables were added for more types of systems, the result was a lack of consistency in the organization and layout of the chapters addressing individual systems.

For example, Chapter 5, “Sprinkler Systems,” specifies the scope of the inspection, testing, or maintenance (ITM) activities and any required corrective actions in the text of the chapter, while Chapter 6, “Standpipe and Hose Systems,” uses a table to address these issues. Further complicating things for the user, in Chapter 7, “Private Fire Service Mains,” and in Chapter 8, “Fire Pumps,” both text and multiple tables must be reviewed to determine the scope and corrective actions associated with the various ITM tasks. This inconsistency between chapters had resulted in editorial mistakes and misinterpreted requirements.

To address these issues, the 2017 edition adopts a single format for all chapters addressing systems and water supplies. Creating a single format for chapter and table layout makes the standard easier to navigate for the casual user and eliminates many of the coordination issues faced by the technical committee and the publishing staff for the document. Each chapter has a summary table for the ITM tasks, and the scope for each task and any required corrective actions are found in the text of the chapter. Further, the individual ITM tasks are listed alphabetically in all tables.

Location of component requirements

The 2017 edition also addresses a variety of issues that have long created confusion for the users of the standard, including the consolidation of all pressure gauge inspection and testing requirements to one location in Chapter 13. Users will find that Chapter 13 is renamed in the 2017 edition as “Common Components and Valves.” Gauges are a common component, and locating the requirements in a single location will ensure consistency in the development and application of the ITM requirements.

2016 Edition of NFPA 13 Cover Image

Similar to the 2017 edition of NFPA 25, the 2019 edition of NFPA 13 is also undergoing a reorganization.

Another issue that has created confusion is the combination of the requirements for deluge and preaction valves. This was particularly true regarding testing requirements, as deluge and preaction systems have very different and distinct challenges. The 2017 edition separates the requirements for deluge and preaction systems, which will greatly assist users in identifying the specific requirements for each valve and system. In addition, hose valves have a section and a separate line in the Chapter 13 summary table. The requirements for hose valves were often missed because of their omission from the summary table.

Technical changes

The 2017 edition of the standard does not contain as many technical changes as past editions—evidence that the standard is maturing after 25 years of use. Although there are fewer technical revisions, there are several worth mentioning, including decreased frequencies for some inspections and tests, automated inspection and testing requirements, coordination between the owner and service provider for discharging water, and the inclusion of ITM requirements for aircraft hangars.

The technical committee continues to address the reasonability issue with decreased frequency for some inspections and tests. The 2011 and 2014 editions of NFPA 25 tackled this issue with the allowance for monthly no-flow tests of electric motor-driven fire pumps and by allowing the frequency of internal piping inspections to be determined by an approved risk assessment. Examples of revisions made with the 2017 edition include decreasing the inspection frequency for hydraulic information signs from quarterly to annually, the external inspection of alarm valves from monthly to quarterly, and control valve supervisory devices from quarterly to semiannually. In addition, the testing of supervisory control devices except for those used with valves was revised from semiannually to once per year.

The NFPA 25 technical committee reserved a section in the 2014 edition of the standard to address the issue of automated testing. With the introduction of devices in the marketplace that automatically test some system components, the 2017 edition provides requirements for the manufacture and use of these devices. The requirements include the need for automatic testing devices to produce the same action as required by the standard; that the devices must be listed; that devices that circulate water must visibly discharge test water once every three years; and that the failure of a system or component to pass an automated test must result in an audible supervisory signal along with a trouble signal in accordance with NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.

A small but significant revision was made regarding the responsibilities of the property owner. Unintended damage caused by the discharge of water is one of the most common areas of financial liability for property owners and their service provider, which is why the standard now requires the owner to coordinate with the entity conducting ITM activities to minimize the damage that can occur when discharging water. This simple revision seeks to minimize this financial liability by requiring the parties to meet and investigate the conditions prior to performing any functions that involve the discharge of water to ensure that conditions that could lead to damage are addressed.

Finally, the 2014 NFPA 25 saw the addition of Chapter 16, which contains ITM requirements from other NFPA documents. The 2017 edition also contains requirements from NFPA 409, Aircraft Hangars. These requirements join those for NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, systems used with small residential board and care facilities as required by NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®.

RUSSELL LEAVITT is executive chairman of Telgian Corporation in Phoenix, Arizona, and a member of NFPA’s Board of Directors. He is a member of the Technical Committee on the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. Top Illustration: Sarah Jones