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STANDPIPE OPERATIONS: The BASICS

BY DAN SPEIGEL

You review sprinkler and standpipe operations while attending recruit class, but reviewing this operation is far from enough when the time comes to rely on these auxiliary appliances during a firefight. Whether you have high-rises, piers, large commercial buildings, or the like, when operating off standpipes during fire conditions, there are a few basic steps you always need to address.1

The Wildwood City (NJ) Fire Department began overhauling its standpipe kits to include 2 1/2-inch handlines with smooth bore nozzles and in-line pressure gauges after a number of incidents and training evolutions demonstrated that 2 1/2-inch hose without a doubt is superior to smaller-size hose. Pre-1993 standpipe systems were designed to flow a maximum 65 psi at the uppermost floor outlet. This took into account that a 100-foot 2 1/2-inch handline was being used with a 1 1/8-inch tip flowing 250 gallons per minute (gpm).


(2) An in-line pressure gauge. All departments should require that a gauge be placed on the discharge valve so companies operating know their pressure without guessing. Note: It’s a good idea to take the “friction loss” guesswork out of the picture. Here you can see that if you have 100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, you set the pressure at 65 psi; that will give you 50 psi at the tip for a smooth bore nozzle.
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Are you really going to know if the system was designed before or after 1993 when you respond to an incident at 0500 hours? You would if you preplan, but newer firefighters or relocated companies may not have that information. It’s better to err on the side of safety.

Although many departments have their own preferences, I favor 2 1/2-inch handlines over 1 1/2-, 1 3/4-, or two-inch handlines when operating off standpipe systems because of the increased flow capabilities, reduced operating pressures, and the fact that small pieces of debris from the standpipe can pass through the smooth bore nozzle. Remember, you are there to fight a fire; bring the equipment to do the job right the first time.

STANDPIPE KIT

Our standpipe kit consists of the following:


(1) A view of the Denver Hose Pack from the back. Firefighters’ hands are free for carrying additional equipment. Notice the streamline profile with the single 50-foot length draped over the SCBA cylinder. (Photos by author.)
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The items listed above are minimum. Work with your officers to make your own kits. Remember that you have only so many firefighters. You want to get the basic equipment up there quickly and get the job started. Incoming companies can transport additional equipment if needed. I believe the most important piece of equipment during standpipe operations is the in-line pressure gauge. How do you know what pressure you’re getting at the discharge point without a pressure gauge? This information is crucial when using standpipes, regardless of the size of hose used.

STANDPIPE CONNECTIONS

Prior to any operation, the responding engine company must have some knowledge of or a preplan the building. On arrival at a building with a standpipe as an auxiliary appliance, one of the first-in engine companies must be directed to support the fire department connection (FDC) supplying the standpipe riser. Connections for sprinklers should also be supported as soon as possible after supporting the standpipe FDC.


(3) The Wildwood (NJ) Fire Department standpipe kit includes four lengths of 2 1/2-inch hose (packed in 50-foot lengths, alone), hose straps, spanner wrenches, door chocks, a 2 1/2-inch smooth bore nozzle, a 30° elbow, a pipe wrench (18 inches), and a wire brush. These items should be the minimum carried.
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The FDC may or may not supply a sprinkler system within the building. Even if the building has a sprinkler system, supporting the standpipe should be a priority, to protect firefighters operating within the building. Unknown problems with the sprinkler system could result in a larger fire if the standpipe is not supported.

Have an additional engine company support the sprinkler FDC as soon as possible after supporting the standpipe FDC. Refer to local standing operating procedures in regard to supporting these systems.


Table 1. PSI Based in Fire Floor
Fire Floors Solid Tip Nozzle (smooth bore) Fog Nozzle
Floors 1-10 150 psi 200 psi
Floors 11-20 200 psi 250 psi
Floors 21-30 250 psi 300 psi
Add 50 psi for each additional 10 stories

An engine company should also be considered the “primary” supply whenever operating, regardless of whether the standpipe is supplied through a domestic or booster pump water source. The suggested starting pressures for engines supplying FDCs are listed above (however, the maximum working pressure of the piping must not be exceeded). They take into account three lengths of 2 1/2-inch hose, the standpipe, and 100 feet of three-inch supply hose from the engine to the FDC. If smaller-diameter hose (1 1/2, 1 3/4, or two-inch) is used, the pressure must be increased because of the added friction loss.


(4) When you encounter standpipe hose connections in boxes recessed in walls, use the 30° elbow to prevent the hose from kinking. As you can see, if a hose is connected directly to this outlet, it would be kinked because of the box.
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Often, when a company officer asks one of his most senior chauffeurs at what pressure he would initially supply an FDC at a 15-story high-rise, he would get that “deer in the headlights” look. Officers must sit down with their firefighters to ensure that they understand standpipe operations. This “sit-down” could be in the form of an easy coffee-table drill.

THE HOSE STRETCH

Once companies arrive at their destination (usually two floors below the fire area) to begin the firefight, they should have enough hose to make a stretch to the fire area and 50 feet of additional hose as a “working” length. For safety purposes, when operating off standpipes, always make your connection at least one floor below the fire floor.


(5) A 30° elbow with the in-line pressure gauge allows the hose to be connected “outside” the box. All adapters should be of the lightest materials to reduce the weight of the standpipe kit.
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As firefighters begin stretching the hoselines, another firefighter should open the discharge valve to ensure a water source is available. This will also allow any debris or air to escape and not be discharged into the handline. If a pressure reducing valve is found to be on a discharge outlet, remove it immediately, if possible; usually it is not readily removable. Once this has been done, the firefighter at the standpipe should connect the in-line pressure gauge, a 30° elbow (if needed), and the first length of 2 1/2-inch handline. After the additional lengths have been connected and the nozzleman is ready, operations may begin. Remember, the firefighter in control of the discharge valve will be adjusting the pressure-in essence, he brought the pump panel to the area where the hose is connected. Water must be flowing while the pressure is set. Hopefully, the flow being provided will be enough to extinguish the flames.

• • •

This is a very basic point of view on standpipe operations. If you have these auxiliary appliances in your district, you must train on them, understand them, and respect them. Your life and the lives of your company members may depend on it.

Endnote

1. An excellent class I attended on standpipe operations that showed these steps and that really woke me up was the FDIC East Engine Company operations H.O.T. class, which included standpipe operations. Another good source of information is Fire Department of New York Deputy Chief John Norman, author of The Fire Officer’s Handbook of Tactics. Detailed information can be found regarding standpipes, their classifications, NFPA 14, PRVs (pressure-reducing valves), PRDs (pressure-reducing devices), gravity systems, and more. This article should only be the beginning for understanding standpipe operations.

DAN SPEIGEL is a 14-year veteran of the Wildwood City (NJ) Fire Department, where he serves as captain. He is also the fire official for the Borough of West Wildwood; a certified N.J. state fire official, a N.J. fire service instructor II, a NJSP hazardous materials specialist, and a N.J. Division of Criminal Justice fire investigator. He is also a rescue specialist with USAR NJ-TF-1.


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