Standpipe Work at Fires in Buildings
Report of the
Committee on Fire Manual*
International Association of Fire Engineers
IN order that a thorough explanation be given relative to the uses of standpipes in fire fighting, it is necessary that the reasons for the installation of such equipment in buildings be clearly understood.
Fire departments are usually equipped with apparatus and portable appliances, hose, etc., designed to be applied in fighting fires in buildings of average or ordinary height and area. As for example, if the average maximum height of buildings in a community be six or seven stories and the greatest maximum area of buildings be about 10,000 square feet, the equipment of the municipal fire department will probably be such as to permit quick work in combating a fire on any floor or in any portion of such buildings.
However, if an owner erects a building of more than ordinary height or area, such owner should necessarily be required to provide some sort of auxiliary fire fighting equipment as a permanent feature of the building’s construction to aid the fire department in fighting a fire in such building.
*Report prepared by Deputy Chief T. F. Dougherty, officer in charge of the New York Fire College, and approved by Chief John Kenlon, President International Association of Fire Engineers 1919-1920.
To stretch a line of hose or several lines of hose up stairways to the upper stories of buildings of excessive height would be a slow procedure and an undue handicap for quick work at fires.
To meet this condition, systems consisting of vertical pipes with hose outlets and valves at every story and known as standpipes for hose line purposes, should be installed, and be provided with a water supply from a gravity tank placed on the roof and connected with the system, and proper sized filling pumps with feed line to the gravity tank to fill such tank. The tank should not be filled through the (standpipe) riser. Where a building is over 280 feet in height, fire pump equipment, connected to the lower end of the standpipe system, should be installed in the building to provide a direct supply of water for such system.
The regulations of the City of New York require that all buildings over 85 feet in height or which are over 10,000 square feet in area shall be equipped with standpipes. If the building is over 85 feet but not more than 150 feet, the standpipe must be 4 inches in diameter; if over 150 feet but not more than 250 feet, it shall be 6 inches in diameter; and if over 250 feet in height, it shall be 8 inches in diameter.
Risers and hose outlets should be placed in the stairway enclosures and the number of risers to be provided should be such that all portions of each story are within the reach of at least one stream supplied by hose of not more than 100 feet in length.
A building extending from street to street, or “L” shaped, thus having two street frontages, should have a standpipe for each street frontage.
Where there is more than one standpipe, the risers should be cross-connected in the cellar or lowest story.
Siamese connections (2-way, 3-inch) with individual clapper valves for each inlet should be provided on the street for fire department supply, and a sign designating the purpose of the Siamese should be placed at same.
The above description is a brief outline of the salient points of Standpipe Regulations in New York City, and as such requirements are necessary and logical provisions, they are applicable for adoption in any city, and where regulations are not in effect, it would be well for the fire department to seek to have necessary ordinances adopted and made effective for buildings requiring such equipment.
As to the general practice of standpipe work at fires the following procedure should be followed:
All companies located in or which respond to fires in the districts having buildings equipped with standpipes should have on the hose wagon at least two lengths of 2 1/2-inch hose folded or rolled for standpipe work and disconnected from other hose on apparatus.
The officer in charge of the engine company first to arrive at a fire in a building equipped with standpipes should immediately locate the fire. If the fire is above the fourth floor, such officer should give the command to stretch into the standpipe Siamese. To furnish proper supply for standpipe work, two lines should be stretched from the engine (or high pressure hydrant) and connected to the standpipe siamese. Threeinch hose should be used i f the wagon is equipped with same, but where no 3-inch hose is available, two lines of 2 1/2-inch hose should be used. In the meantime, the two folded or rolled lengths should be taken from the wagon, two men carrying same proceed up stairway, and a third man carrying up a controlling nozzle (and if the hook and ladder company has not arrived, also carry an axe) proceeding to the floor below the floor on fire. The hose line should be disconnected from the standpipe outlet, for the reason that it cannot be depended upon, and the two lengths of department hose connected to valve outlet and stretched up stairway to fire floor, and necessary orders to engineer to give such pressure as elevation or other conditions would require.
During the period that would elapse in the work of opening the door to the fire floor, the hose line should be freed of kinks and air allowed to escape from the hose line, to insure water at the nozzle when the door is opened.
Suggestions will be made later as to methods used in computing pressure for hose lines operating at high elevations.
As to the pressures to be called for by the officer in charge of the company, the following information will serve as a guide: While it is essential for the officer to know the basis of computing the pressure necessary to elevate water to any given height and be able to figure out the required nozzle pressure and friction loss in the hose and standpipe, if proper study and thought is given to the problems while in quarters before a fire occurs, it will not be necessary to theorize or use a pad and pencil while at the actual fire. An officer of average intelligence should be able to estimate within a few pounds just what pump pressure will be necessary to give proper nozzle pressure and volume, almost instinctively, without any delay.
It requires .434 pounds to elevate water one foot, or 43.4 pounds for 100 feet. Assume that the average story height of buildings is 12 1/2 feet, thus 12 1/2 feet elevation requires 12 1/2 times .434 or approximately 5 1/2 pounds per story for lift.
While the actual friction loss under ordinary flow in standpipe risers is almost negligible, there is a loss at the Siamese connection and at the outlet valve owing to fittings and reduction in area, and for all ordinary purposes, an.allowance of 25 pounds for frictional loss in the standpipe is a fair assumption.
About 30 to 35 pounds nozzle pressure is sufficient for men to handle working into a smoke filled floor, and will furnish a stream of sufficient strength and reach if properly applied. The proper sized nozzle for work inside buildings depends upon the judgment of the officer in charge, but usually either a 1 1/8 or 1 1/4-inch size is used.
With 35 pounds on the nozzle, about 220 gallons per minute are discharged. For a flow of 220 gallons, there would be a loss of about 6 pounds for each length of 2 1/2 hose, or 12 pounds from standpipe outlet to nozzle.
The friction loss from engine or hydrant to Siamese connection will depend on the number of lengths so stretched and the size of the hose used. With two lines of 3-inch hose from engine to Siamese, the loss will be about 5 pounds per 100 feet.
Assuming a fire occurs on the tenth floor of a building (average height of floor being 10 feet) and the company is to operate from the standpipe, an officer in charge of the company on arriving can easily estimate the pressure to order the engineer to give as follows:
10 floors at 5 1/2 pounds
per floor 55
35 pounds at nozzle
plus about 15
pounds for hose
from outlet 50
Friction loss allowed
for standpipe 25
200 feet or 4 lengths
stretch from en-
gine to Siamese
(two lines of 3-
140 pounds approximately
Officer calls for 140 pounds at the engine.
In the event of a fire occurring in the upper stories of an exceptionally high building, such as the Woolworth Building or the Equitable Building in New York City, an officer in charge of the company about to connect to and operate from the standpipe would reason as follows:
The fire is on the thirtieth floor. Thirty times 5 1/2 means 165 pounds for elevation. Fifty pounds for line from outlet and nozzle pressure, 25 pounds for standpipe. Ten pounds for 4 lengths stretched from engine or hydrant to Siamese (two lines of 3-inch). Total pressure needed at engine or hydrant, 250 pounds.
In high buildings where fire pumps are provided connected direct to the standpipe system, the officer in charge of the fire should immediately send orders to the engineer of the building to start such pumps and maintain pump pressure at the same figure as required at the hydrant or engine, and in the case given of a fire on the thirtieth floor, the order would be for 235 pounds at house fire pumps.
In the case of an exceptionally high building or any other similar building in a high pressure zone, notification should be sent to the high pressure pumping station to increase the pressure, if necessary to fight a fire in the upper stories.
If the second company to arrive at the fire is ordered to operate from the standpipe, the officer in charge of such company should pay strict attention to the order given as to the point his company is to operate from. If there be a fire escape on the building, and the order given by the officer in charge of the fire is for the second company to operate from the fire escape, the officer of such company should order his men to take up two lengths of 2 1/2-inch hose in addition to the two rolled up lengths, making a total of four lengths to be carried up. The reason for this is: The first due company has connected to the outlet on the floor below the stairs. The second due company will have to take a connection from the second floor below the fire. It will probably require two lengths of hose to reach from such outlet to the rear of building on that floor, and the two additional lengths will be needed to make the stretch up the fire escape and into the fire floor.
In the case of an exposure fire endangering adjacent buildings, if such adjacent buildings are equipped with standpipe systems, the services of members of truck companies may at times be utilized by order ing such companies to enter the buildings endangered, stretching the hose lines from the standpipes, and putting out fire which has ignited window frames or stock near windows, and by carefully wetting down material within the flame or heat radiation zone, keep such fire from extending.
All theatres and other places of amusement which are equipped with standpipe systems and in which fire may occur requiring the use of such equipment should be given consideration by firemen who may be present when such condition occurs and definite plans as to the action of a fireman under such circumstances can be made in advance. Thought should be given to the menace that might be created if lines of hose stretched will obstruct aisles or exits, and if it be necessary to use such hose it should be laid to cause the least obstruction in the means of egress and with the shortest possible stretch. As for example, if a fire occurred in the smoking room on the west side of a theatre, the proper stretch of hose from the standpipe would be from the outlet on that side and not from the outlet on the east side, which would probably necessitate laying a line of hose across the entire rear of the auditorium and blocking the front entrance and exits.
In operating at fires where standpipe work is involved, and it is found that a connection cannot be made to the outside Siamese connection, it will be possible to provide a supply to such system by using a “double female connection,” and placing same on the outlet of the standpipe at the first story inside the building. The male coupling of the hose which has been stretched to the Siamese should be carried inside to the first outlet of the standpipe and connected,to the double female placed on such outlet, a short piece of 1/2-inch rope being used to lash the double female to the riser to relieve the strain on such fitting.
As to the number of hose streams that can be obtained from a standpipe system, all officers should consider the power available at the source from which the water pressure is derived and the volume that such power is able to deliver; there is a vast difference between the supply from a fire engine and a high pressure system, and also in the output that may be obtained from a 3-inch and a 6-inch standpipe.
Where no other power than that obtained from one fire engine is used on a standpipe system, it is suggested that where an increase in volume is desired, that the power of an additional engine be utilized, by attaching two Siamese connections to the Siamese connection on the building, which will permit of four hose lines being connected to Siamese connections to augment the supply.
The occasion may arise at an operation where it will be necessary to obtain the delivery of a stiff heavy stream from a standpipe in a high building in close proximity, either on front, rear or sides of the build ing involved with fire.
It is necessary to throw the water in large volume a considerable distance, and the siamesing of lines within the buildings is suggested, taking the supply from the standpipe outlets on two floors, but where a “two in to one” delivery is not sufficient, additional Siamese connections have to be used in such manner that the volume and range of the stream desired will be obtained and for the prompt making up of a layout as suggested officers and men should give thought to it in advance of the actual operation.
Another suggestion as to the use of standpipe equipment to advantage under unusual circumstances:
Assume a fire occurs in a building adjacent to or in close proximity to a building equipped with a wet standpipe; the regular assigned engines are absent at another fire, or other circumstances delay the arrival of an engine, or engines may have arrived and frozen hydrants cause a considerable delay. Would it not be good practice to use the standpipe equipment available to extinguish the fire, even to the point of an engine taking suction from it where necessary?