Changes in the 2014 Edition of NFPA 25
By Russell P. Fleming, P.E., FSFPE
NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection Systems,1 was first published in 1992. After just over 20 years of availability, it is undergoing a review of sorts relative to its effectiveness. An article in NFPA Journal2 discussed recurring concerns about the enforcement and scope of the document. The article was tied to a special conference sponsored by the NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation that took place on December 9-10, 2013 in Chicago. The aim is to improve enforceability of the standard, with the ultimate goal of improving sprinkler system performance even beyond the traditional high levels.
In the meantime, the 2014 edition of NFPA 25 was issued a few months ago following floor debate at the June 2013 NFPA Annual Meeting. As can be seen from the following list of highlights, the major issues of discussion and change were similar to those of recent previous editions:
- The scope of the current document has been clarified through inclusion of the phrase: “…and actions to undertake when changes in occupancy, use, process, materials, hazard or water supply that potentially impact the performance of the water based system are planned or identified.”
- New definitions of “adjust”, “clean”, rebuild” “remove”, repair”, “replace”, and “test” have been added to improve the application of the standard.
- New definitions of frequencies establish minimum and maximum times associated with quarterly, semiannual, annual, 3-year, and 5-year requirements. For example, “annual frequency” now means once per year with a minimum of 9 months and maximum of 15 months.
- The specific frequency of no-flow fire pump tests remains weekly for diesel-driven pumps, and monthly for electric pumps, but new exceptions will go back to weekly testing for non-redundant electric pumps if they serve high-rise buildings beyond the pumping capacity of the fire department, if they are equipped with limited service controllers, if they are vertical turbine pumps, or if they are used in conjunction with ground level tanks or other sources that do not provide sufficient pressure to be of material value without the pump. For all types of pumps, the option remains whereby the test frequency can be modified on the basis of an approved risk analysis.
- For diesel–driven pumps, NFPA 25 includes a new requirement to test the fuel annually for degradation. If found to be deficient, the fuel must be reconditioned or replaced.
- The standard includes a new Chapter 16 addressing the special inspection, testing and maintenance provisions of other NFPA codes and standards. For the time being, this includes only provisions excerpted from the NFPA 1013 dealing with NFPA 13D4 systems in small residential board and care facilities.
- The revised standard makes a distinction between a “valve status test” as opposed to the traditional “main drain test.” The main drain test is used to gauge the strength of the water supply available to the system and determine if any changes have taken place, while the valve status test is simply used to flow some water to verify that valves serving a portion of the system have been reopened following testing or repairs. The main drain test is required annually at each lead-in to the building (not each riser), while a valve status test is required at every return to service when valves have been operated.
- A clarification has been made that the 5-year testing of underground piping within Chapter 7 is intended to apply only when such piping serves hydrants.
- In Chapter 14, the terminology “assessment of the internal condition” replaces “internal inspection,” and while the 5-year inspection of the interior of the piping remains, the specific requirements for opening a flushing connection and removing a random sprinkler have disappeared.
- Language was added to require the replacement of missing or illegible hydraulic information signs. Pipe schedule systems are required to have signs indicating that they are pipe schedule systems.
As important as the items changed are the requirements left unchanged, or rejected proposals. One of the areas in which the committee considered making changes, but ultimately did not, was in the area of time allowed for remedy of deficiencies. It was decided that this is an issue of enforcement best left to the discretion of the Authority Having Jurisdiction.
Russell Fleming is with the National Fire Sprinkler Association
- NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2014.
- Koffel, W., “Closer Look,” NFPA Journal, November/December, 2013, pp. 40-45.
- NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2013.
- NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2013.