Fires at buildings under construction can be severe and the challenges they present unique. Some of these may include:
- Poor site access.
- Water supplies not fully developed or readily available.
- Construction equipment and debris on the ground and on each floor under construction.
- Difficulty finding one's way around the job site.
Firefighters need to be aware of these dangers and the tools available to them to prepare for these incidents. One tool that helps firefighters at building construction sites is a temporary standpipe system.
Standpipe system defined
Because of the extreme risk of a fire during the construction of a building, almost all of the building and fire codes have specified that a standpipe system with a fire department connection (FDC) be installed and operational during the construction process. Standpipe systems are defined as:
An arrangement of piping, valves, hose connections, and associated equipment installed in a building or structure, with the hose connections located in such a manner that water can be discharged in streams or spray patterns through attached hose and nozzles, for the purpose of extinguishing a fire, thereby protecting a building or structure and its contents in addition to protecting the occupants.National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 18.104.22.168, Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems
NFPA 14.12.1 states that standpipes need to be maintained in conformity with the progress of the building’s construction so that they are always ready to use.
Requirements for temporary standpipe systems
The model fire codes require that temporary standpipe systems be provided in tall buildings so that firefighters have one more tool to make their jobs easier. While there are some minor differences between the codes as to when standpipes are required, the temporary standpipe specifications generally include the following:
- At least one standpipe with at least one outlet per floor must be available during construction.
- The FDC for supplying the standpipe system must be in an approved and convenient location that is conspicuously marked.
- The standpipe must be extended vertically as new floors are added. The highest hose outlets must be within one floor level of the highest point of construction.
- The standpipe riser must be securely supported and restrained at each alternate floor.
- Standpipe hose outlets must be in accessible locations near usable stairs. They must be protected from physical damage.
- Standpipe hose outlets must have thread connections matching local fire departments’ hoses.
- Temporary standpipes must remain in service until the permanent standpipe system is operational.
One item not addressed specifically in the codes, but that every inspector should consider, is verification that, as the standpipe is extended vertically with the building, it is adequately tested hydrostatically to be certain it will survive when it is needed.