Roundtable: Pressure-Reducing Valve Failure

By John "Skip" Coleman

It is very easy to take things for granted. Most of us in the fire service know that certain things are working as they should to make our lives easier. We throw a self-contained breathing apparatus on our back, snap in the mask-mounted regulator, and inhale and we get air. As if by magic, these things work. How? We may not know how, but we do know that almost always, when we throw it on and inhale, we get air. If we are lucky, we are also taught what to do in the rare instance when it doesn't work. 

There are many "things" like this in the fire service. They almost always work. Sometimes we don't know exactly how, but they do.

One such tool is starting to present problems recently. Standpipes have been required by law in certain buildings since 1975. Many of these systems have sat idle for quite a while. Sediment, rust, and other debris accumulates in some areas due to lack of maintenance and inactivity, which can render the device inoperable. One of these problem areas is the pressure-reducing valve (PRV) in standpipe systems. If you have ever been on the nozzle end of a broken PRV, you quickly realize something is amiss.

Has your department experienced failure of a pressure reducing valve? How did you solve the problem?

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Skip Coleman: Firefighting RoundtableJohn "Skip" Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering. a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008) and Searching Smarter (Fire Engineering 2011) and 2011 recipient of the FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award.


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