Protecting against fire in buildings under construction or demolition presents unique challenges. Often, the structure is lacking power for fire detection and alarm systems, lacks heat for keeping fire sprinkler systems from freezing, and usually does not have a satisfactory water source for fire extinguishment. Working trades may be cutting or welding, providing ignition sources for accumulated building materials or waste. The fire department becomes the primary fire protection means, and to assist their efforts, a dry standpipe is installed.
What Is a Dry Standpipe?
A dry standpipe is a network of in-place piping allowing connection of a water supply (usually a fire department mobile apparatus known as a pumper) to a dedicated inlet at street level, with hose outlet valves on each floor. Firefighters do not need to drag long hose lengths up stairwells – they simply carry hose to any floor, attach to the hose valve, and proceed to attack the fire.
Why Is This Important?
Firefighters need a reliable water supply for interior attack. Without robust hose streams, firefighters are at serious risk inside a burning structure. In most completed and occupied structures, a wet standpipe is present, (always filled with water, and supported by connection to mains and building fire pumps.
What Happens if a Standpipe is Impaired?
Interfering with the integrity of the pipe (by damaging or actually removing a section), or tampering with hose valves, will impair the proper use of the standpipe. With wet standpipes, impairment is immediately obvious – there is an immediate and obvious water discharge. However, there is no water in a dry standpipe. Impairment is likely to be overlooked until firefighters fail to receive water as expected – and now their risk is greatly increased. Firefighters have been killed in incidents directly related to dry standpipe impairment. A way to know that impairment has occurred is vital to primary fire protection in buildings relying on dry standpipes.
Can Impairment of Dry Standpipes Be Avoided?
Avoiding all accidental or deliberate dry standpipe impairments is not possible, But, installation of a method to supervise the status of the dry standpipe, and signal the occurrence, allows site safety personnel to act – closing down dangerous operations, moving workers to other areas, and initiating immediate repairs.
Can Dry Standpipes Be Supervised?
Yes. Filling dry standpipes with pressurized air – instead of pressurized water – and then automatically monitoring the air pressure can accomplish the objective. When pipe is damaged, or when a hose valve is accidentally or deliberately opened, a signal will warn site safety personnel and action can be taken.
What Should I Know About Dry Standpipe Supervision?
Your local jurisdiction may have adopted, or is considering adopting, a law requiring dry standpipe supervision. The specifics can vary.
The reliability and compatibility of all supervision components is vital. The pressure source (usually an air compressor) and its controls, the pressure indicators and sensors, and the signals must all be chosen carefully to work together properly as expected.
Even in the absence of a local law or requirement, site safety personnel that provide dry standpipe supervision can realize a pay off in the event of a fire emergency. Your fire department will be able to provide water quickly and reliably, minimizing both fire damage and water discharge duration.
Local jurisdictions, including fire departments and building departments, should consider implanting proper requirements for standpipe supervision. New York and Boston have implemented effective laws, defining system requirements to benefit of all stakeholders.
What Should I Do?
While you could try to put together an assortment of untested and untried components, there is a better way. UNITED Fire Systems has developed STANDPIPE-PAC™, a system specifically engineered to provide all requirements and is easy to specify, install and maintain.
What Is STANDPIPE-PAC™?
STANDPIPE-PAC™ consists of expertly chosen and assembled components, including:
An air compressor specifically sized for your standpipe’s pressurization requirements.
Compressor controls to ensure proper and cost effective compressor operation.
Built-in air drying to avoid water in your standpipe – after all, the idea is to keep the dry standpipe dry.
Pressure sensors factory-adjusted to signal impairment at the proper time.
A signaling unit and horn with dedicated power supply to sound the impairment signal.
Components permitting easy and quick testing and maintenance.
All components factory-assembled AND TESTED for proper operation immediately.
Only two (2) connections – 115 VAC power and pressure out to standpipe.
Simply connect and commission – and you are in compliance with your local law or providing the best possible supervision even without a local requirement.
What’s the Next Step?
UNITED Fire Systems wants to help you with what you need – whether it’s complying with your local law, writing a specification, understanding what to consider when preparing an effective law, or providing the best choice when you decide for yourself to install this vital protection
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Did You Know?
Your wet-pipe sprinkler system may not be as filled with water as you expect it to be. A bubble of air may migrate to the highest point in the system, creating a very vulnerable location for internal pipe corrosion. That’s why NFPA 13 now requires that all new wet sprinkler systems be fitted with an air vent at the system’s highest point. This is a good investment for both new and existing systems. The UNITED Fire Systems Model AR-1 automatic air release device is Factory Mutual (FM) Approved for just this function. See here for more information, and take action to prevent damaging corrosion.