Quick Drill: Standpipe Training


The scenario is a reported fire on the sixth floor of a low- rise commercial structure. All occupants have been evacuated, according to dispatch. Your initial assignment is four quints, two engines, four rescues, and two battalion chiefs. On arrival, Quint 1 finds smoke showing from the sixth floor and confirms with building management that all occupants have been evacuated.

Quint 1 is assigned as the recon team and to investigate the extent of the fire. Quint 1 relays to command that each floor is approximately 6,000 square feet and that there is 50-percent involvement on the sixth floor.

Engine 2 arrives and attempts to connect to the fire department connection (FDC). The driver notices that the FDC is damaged. He quickly notifies command, and the decision is made to connect to the standpipe on the first floor. The driver places a 2½-inch siamese on the standpipe and connects a three-inch hoseline to the siamese.

During this time, Quint 3 is assigned fire attack and is ascending the stairwell with a high-rise pack containing two 75-foot sections of 2½-inch hose with a 11⁄8-inch smooth bore tip. The third team member is the “gate man,” who is carrying the high-rise connection bag. This bag contains a 2½-inch wye, an elbow, and an inline pressure gauge.

Engine 2 obtains positive water, and Quint 3’s gate man charges the 2½-inch hoseline. Quint 3 quickly relays to command that the fire is beyond a 2½-inch hoseline. Command orders Engine 1 to deploy a portable master stream with a 13⁄8-inch smooth bore tip on the sixth floor.

A second high-rise connection bag with an additional 2½-inch high-rise pack is brought to the sixth floor. The portable master stream is assembled and deployed. Considering the volume of water needed to supply the master stream and the 2½-inch hoseline smooth bore, a second three-inch line is connected to the siamese on the first floor to help boost volume and reduce friction loss to the standpipe. Engine 2’s driver figures and adjusts the pump discharge pressure (PDP), and the attack crews extinguish the fire.


In this scenario, we were able to use an empty sixth-floor parking deck located in our first-in territory, which allowed us to perform the drill in real time and flow water. This drill presented several challenges.

Ascending to the sixth floor. The first challenge was the simple task of ascending to the sixth floor, carrying a high-rise pack in 95°F weather. We commonly say this is a typical job and we will rise to the occasion when it arrives. However, this is a vital aspect each firefighter must consider. When the call comes in, can we really do the job? Fire departments can address this issue in several ways, but it is ultimately up to each firefighter to be fit for duty.

(1) High-rise equipment: two 75-foot sections of 2½-inch hose, wye, and high-rise bag. (Photos by author.)

The FDC. The second challenge was locating the FDC and finding it damaged. The incident commander’s quick decision and the help of our preplans enabled the driver to connect to the first-floor standpipe to supply the sixth floor with water. As the attack team reached the sixth floor and connected to the standpipe, it used an elbow to allow for extra room between the wall and wye outlets. The inline pressure gauge was added to help determine if the proper pressure was being pumped to the sixth floor. The engine driver calculates the pump discharge pressure and pumps the engine at that pressure. If the gate man is not obtaining the correct pressure on the sixth floor, there may be additional problems with the standpipe in addition to the damage we already identified. Some of the problems could be debris, pressure-reducing valves, and incorrect pump pressure. If we are able to rule out some of these issues and still cannot obtain the correct pressure on the sixth floor, this could lead to an early evacuation of the interior fire attack crews, especially if we know that we will not be able to supply enough water for the fire.

(2) High-rise bag contents: various adapters and reducers, spanner wrenches, webbing, mallet, pipe wrench, 2½-inch elbow, and inline pressure gauge.

Water supply. The third challenge was supplying the volume of water needed at the correct pressure to operate a 13⁄8-inch master stream and a 11⁄8-inch smooth bore tip. We eventually reached the needed pressure; however, we were guessing at how much water was supplied to the handline because of gating back on the wye. Recall that the inline pressure gauge was connected to the elbow on the standpipe with a wye connected to it. The pressure supplied to the sixth floor was noted; however, we did not have a reading on each line coming off the wye. In the second scenario, we placed the inline gauge on the handline discharge side of the wye. If the engine supplies the correct PDP, we know what pressure is at the master stream. Placing the inline gauge on the handline side allows the gate man to basically become the pump operator and gate back the pressure needed for the 11⁄8-smooth bore tip.

Also, although basic, an important point to remember concerning water pressure issues is that a smooth bore tip is flowed at a lower nozzle pressure than a fog tip. The portable master stream was originally preconnected with a fog tip at 100 pounds per square inch (psi), but the decision was made to change to a 13⁄8-inch smooth bore tip at 80 psi.

Extent of fire. The fourth challenge was the extent of reported fire on the sixth floor. Quint 1 reported an area of approximately 6,000 square feet with 50-percent involvement. The first line pulled was the high-rise pack with 2½-inch hose and a 11⁄8-inch smooth bore tip handline. This is an ideal line to pull in most commercial structure situations. However, Retired DeKalb County (GA) Deputy Chief Bill Smith put it in a different perspective: “Would you pull a 2½-inch hoseline on a fully involved 3,000-square-foot residential structure, or would a master stream be your first line?”

Fifty percent involvement in a 6,000-square-foot floor space of a much larger structure is still a tremendous amount of fire. It may take an additional firefighter to help advance the portable master stream, but the benefits of gallon-per-minute (gpm) output vs. British thermal units greatly outweigh the one additional firefighter needed to deploy a master stream inside a commercial structure.

In using this method of fire attack, the pump operator must be aware of the standpipe’s rated capacity. The pressure at the wye on the first floor was 215 psi; this supplied the smooth bore handline and master stream. Some standpipes, such as a low-rise dry standpipe, may be rated at only 175 psi; several of them are in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Responders’ knowledge of such structures and the use of preplans should prevent them from damaging the standpipe.

Additional Lessons

There were several additional lessons learned from conducting this drill. It was determined that each floor that will have a line deployed from the standpipe should have an inline pressure gauge attached. This will allow each floor’s gate man to know if adequate pressure is being supplied. If crews are operating on multiple floors, there is the concern of robbing water from each other. Another important job for the gate man while waiting on positive water is to ensure that the hoseline is properly stretched to the outside of the stairwell with no kinks.

In addition, two styles of carries were used for ascending the stairs. The first carry was the traditional over-the-shoulder carry; the second was to have a firefighter place the high-rise hose pack over the self-contained breathing apparatus, freeing the hands of the firefighter ascending the stairs. Unless it comes down to an equipment-needed issue, it seems that personal preference determines the type of carry. Traditional high-rise packs, especially 1¾-inch packs, use a large and bulky loop-fastener bag with a strap. The method used in Sandy Springs is to use two 75-foot sections of 2½-inch hose flat loaded with a smooth bore nozzle attached and three or four simple loop-fastener straps. Another advantage of the 75-foot section method is that it requires only two firefighters to split the hoseline instead of three firefighters or one with an additional 50-foot section on his back.


This was a simple Saturday drill put together over breakfast that morning and took about 2½ hours to complete, but it was extremely valuable for all involved. This exercise also provided great physical training for the day, killing two birds with one stone. There is no greater training than the training for which you do not receive a certificate. Company-level training combined with the hands-on portion will allow you to operate as an efficient firefighting team.

Thanks to Chief Bill Smith for his help with this article.

BRIAN WARD is chief of emergency operations for Georgia Pacific-Madison, Georgia, and a member of the Sandy Springs (GA) Fire Rescue. He is past chairman of the Metro Atlanta Training Officers and a current member of the Honeywell Advisory Council. He is a State of Georgia advocate for Everyone Goes Home and the lead live fire instructor for the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. He was the recipient of the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF/EGH. He has an associate degree in fire science and a fire safety and technology engineering bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. He is the founder of FireServiceSLT.com and Georgia Smoke Diver #741.

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