Issue 46: The Top Ten Changes in the 2011 Edition of NFPA 25
By Russell P. Fleming, P.E., FSFPE
The 2011 edition of NFPA 25 – Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection Systems
- was issued following some healthy floor debate at the 2010 NFPA
Annual Meeting and a series of appeals to the NFPA Standards Council. As
in the development of previous editions, most controversial issues
dealt with issues of owner's responsibilities, but some new changes
aimed at improving enforceability of the document also generated
A "top ten" list of significant actions might include the following:
Monthly Electric Fire Pump Testing. In what was
perhaps the biggest single change to the standard and the most
contentious, the requirement that electric motor driven fire pumps be
operated weekly was changed to monthly. The minimum time of operation
remains 10 minutes. Diesel driven fire pumps will still require weekly
operation for a minimum period of 30 minutes. These same minimum run
times are now specified for the annual pump flow tests.
New Levels of System Deficiencies. New definitions
of "critical deficiency" and "noncritical deficiency" were added
alongside "impairment" to essentially create the potential for four
different levels of system readiness. A new Annex E was added as an
example of how various system problems found during inspection and
testing could be categorized using these definitions.
Obstruction Inspections Renamed Internal Piping Inspections.
To help eliminate some of the past confusion between an "obstruction
inspection" and an "obstruction investigation," the former has been
re-designated as an "internal inspection of piping." Located within
Chapter 14 on "Obstruction Investigation", the 5-year internal
inspection continues to involve the removal of a random sprinkler at the
end of a branch line and a random cap from the end of a cross main to
check for the presence of foreign organic and inorganic material. If
such material is found, it serves as one additional trigger for a more
thorough obstruction investigation of the system. The chapter continues
to list fourteen other such triggers that might be observed during
system inspection and testing.
Occupants Not Responsible for Valve Locations.
Section 4.1.7, which had required the property owner to ensure that
responsible occupants be made aware of the location of shut-off valves
and the procedures for shutting down the system, was revised to simply
require that the "location of shutoff valves shall be identified."
No Pre-Season Check for Areas Subject to Freezing. A
section that formerly required that wet pipe systems be inspected prior
to the onset of freezing weather to ensure adequate heat was deleted in
favor of a broader requirement in a new Section 4.1.2, which simply
requires the owner to ensure that all areas of buildings with
water-filled piping are maintained at a minimum 40 degrees F (4 degrees
C) and protected from freezing. The old wording recommending a check of
specific building areas has been converted to an accompanying annex
Clean But Don't Touch. A new annex Section
A.188.8.131.52.2(5) indicates that, in lieu of replacing sprinklers that are
loaded with a coating of dust, it is permissible to remove the dust from
the sprinkler using compressed air or a vacuum, provided the equipment
does not touch the sprinkler.
Sprinkler System Hazard Evaluation Form. To help
differentiate between a hazard evaluation required by Sections 4.1.5 and
4.1.6 and a normal system inspection, an Annex F was added to show an
example of a sprinkler system hazard evaluation form. The committee
continues to define an inspection as a "visual inspection of a system or
portion thereof to verify that it appears to be in operating condition
and is free from physical damage." An inspection does not include an
examination of the capability of the system to address the hazard of the
occupancy. Section 4.1.5 and 4.1.6 continue to place an obligation on
the owner to arrange for a hazard evaluation in the event of changes in
occupancy, use, process, materials, water supply, construction features,
storage commodity or arrangement or other condition affecting the
design basis of the systems.
Owner's Section of Inspection Forms Recommended. A
new annex section A.4.3.1 recommends a standard format for an "Owner's
Section" within system inspection forms, asking questions that the owner
or owner's representative is in the best position to answer. Such
questions deal with issues such as changes in occupancy, hazard of
contents and building modifications, and can signal a need for a system
hazard evaluation to ensure that the fire protection system continues to
be adequate for the application.
3-Year Preaction System Air Test Added. In line with
the requirement for dry pipe systems added in the 2008 edition of NFPA
25, an air pressure test of preaction systems will be also be required
every three years to ensure that excessive leakage is not taking place.
In addition to excessive running of compressors, such leakage can lead
to the build-up of moisture within systems, with resulting potential for
Heat Tape Inspection Required. A new Section 5.2.7 was added to require that heat tape be inspected in accordance with the manufacturer's requirements.
As always, there were numerous proposed changes that were not made.
For example, there were no changes in the requirements for sample
testing of various types of sprinklers after various terms of service,
which continue to range from 10 years for dry sprinkler assemblies to 25
years for fast response sprinklers (including residential) to 50 years
for traditional standard response sprinklers.
One of the biggest changes to the 2011 edition of NFPA 25, however,
took place not during the standards revision cycle, but due to the
issuance of a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) to NFPA 25 in March of
2011. The TIA, which accompanied similar TIAs to NFPA 13, 13D and 13R,
places new restrictions on the use of combustible antifreeze solutions
in all types of occupancies. While existing solutions of up to 50%
glycerin or 40% propylene glycol by volume are considered acceptable,
new solutions will not be permitted to exceed 48% glycerin or 38%
propylene glycol by volume, and all such solutions must be factory
pre-mixed. Because there are numerous existing antifreeze systems that
are exposed to temperatures below the protection capabilities of those
solutions, efforts will be needed to propose alternate protection
methods, such as adding heat, improving insulation, converting to dry
pipe systems or protecting with listed heat tape. The specific wording
of the new TIAs can be found at www.nfpa.org/antifreeze.
Russell Fleming is with the National Fire Sprinkler Association
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The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) was established in 1950 and incorporated as an independent organization in 1971. It is the professional society representing those practicing the field of fire protection engineering. The Society has over 4,600 members and 100 chapters, including 21 student chapters worldwide.