Integrating Fire Alarm Systems and Fire Pumps

Wayne D Moore
NFPA Journal

Aug 31, 2005 20:00 EDT

IF A FACILITY'S fire pump does not operate, it's a single-point catastrophic failure of the entire fire protection system. For this reason, NFPA 20, Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection, requires building owners to monitor the operational readiness and operation of their fire pumps. One very effective way of doing this is to monitor the building's fire alarm system.

The two specific chapters of NFPA 20 that contain requirements for fire pump monitoring are Chapter 10, "Electric Drive Controllers and Accessories," and Chapter 12, "Engine Drive Controllers," both of which require the fire pump controller itself to monitor certain conditions. They also require that certain signals be transmitted to a remote, constantly attended location if the fire pump itself is not constantly attended. In addition, the chapters require fire pump controller manufacturers to provide contacts in the controller so that a fire alarm system technician can connect supervisory-initiating device circuits for remote monitoring.

For electric-motor-driven fire pumps, section 10.4.7 of Chapter 10 requires the remote monitoring, as separate signals, of pump motor running, loss of phase, phase reversals, and connection of the fire pump motor to an alternate power source when so equipped.

For diesel-engine-driven fire pumps, secdon 12.4.2 of Chapter 12 requires the remote monitoring, as separate signals, of engine running, controller main switch turned to a position other than automatic, and trouble on the engine or controller. For this last requirement, a single signal will indicate any of the following conditions: critically low oil pressure in the lubrication system, high engine jacket water temperature, failure of the engine to start automatically, shutdown from overspeed, battery failure or a missing battery, low air or hydraulic pressure where used to start the engine, system overpressure for engines equipped with pressure-limiting controls, ECM selector switch in alternate ECM position for engines with ECM controls, fuel injection malfunction for engines with ECM, low fuel level, and loss of output in the battery charger.

NFPA 20 permits the use of a remote annunciator operating at no more than 125 volts to remotely monitor the fire pump operation and operational readiness, but using a fire alarm system to monitor these conditions provides a much more secure method. The fire alarm system will monitor the interconnecting circuits for the integrity of the signaling path and can integrate monitoring the fire pump with monitoring other conditions that may affect overall fire safety.

When developing the fire alarm system for this purpose, the designer may use a conventional fire alarm system or an addressable fire alarm system, which provides a distinct advantage. By putting a signaling line circuit interface or multiplex transponder in the fire pump room or house, all of the above signals, plus the supervisory signals for fire pump control valves, fire pump reservoir or tank level, low city water pressure for a booster fire pump, fire pump room or house low temperature, and reservoir or tank low temperature, can transmit to the fire alarm system control unit over a signaling line circuit.

Using the fire alarm system to monitor a fire pump's operating conditions and reporting those conditions clearly and immediately will help ensure the pump is operational when needed. It will also allow service personnel to respond more quickly to the conditions that can lead to catastrophic failure.

Source: NFPA Journal


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