Standpipe Tests Benefit University and Firemen
Some problems were discovered when the dry standpipe systems in new high-rise buildings were tested on the Texas A&M University campus at College Station.
The testing was done by the College Station Fire Department in cooperation with the safety office of the university and while the results were not surprising, they did bring to light some areas of grave concern.
The standpipe systems evidently were not completely pressure-tested when installed. This was indicated by leaks found around valves and flanges. In one case, the drain valve had been left off and a piece of wood had been stuck in the opening.
The systems were not completely flushed before acceptance. This was dramatically demonstrated when foreign matter such as rocks, mud, welding slag and other debris that was not identifiable was flushed from the system. There was enough foreign matter in one of the systems to completely clog a 2 1/2 -inch fog nozzle on the roof. If there had been an actual fire, it would have caused a significant delay in getting an effective fire stream on the fire.
Drain valves on a dry standpipe system were not closed. This problem was brought to light after the fire department was pumping into one of the systems and it could not get sufficient pressure on the roof. Upon investigation, it was found that a drain valve was open in an air-handling room on the third floor. Considerable water was discharged into the basement before the open valve was discovered and closed. This was another instance of where the fire department did not know of this particular drain valve and in the event of a fire, considerable time would have been lost trying to hunt down this valve.
The experience that was gained from this exercise last May 29 and 30 was of considerable benefit to both the College Station Fire Department, which has the responsibility for fire protection on the campus, and to the university. The fire department had a chance to determine the pressures required to get effective fire streams from the standpipe system and’ also learned of some difficulties that could possibly be encountered during a fire in one of the buildings. The department also learned how its job will now be easier.
Some recommendations based on these tests include:
- Complete testing and flushing of new systems needs to be done by the contractor.
- Pressure and flow tests should be conducted by the contractor.
- Periodic inspection and tests of the systems should be conducted by university and local fire officials.
The bright side of this experience is that it did not take a fire in one of these buildings to get someone aware of the possible problems. The testing was done as a result of the excellent relations between the College Station Fire Department and the university’s safety office.
It seems that the only time you read about someone doing some testing such as this is after the problem was discovered during a disastrous fire or tragedy. This only goes to prove that with a little bit of thinking and some proper pre-fire planning, we can insure that built-in fire protection equipment will be available for use if ever needed in an emergency.