Fire pumps are often considered to be the most critical component of a water-based fire protection system because, without a fully functional pump, water-based systems can be rendered ineffective. When a fire occurs in expansive environments that contain high-risk hazards, it can be catastrophic to discover that a fire pump is not performing optimally. As a piece of equipment that is not used on a regular basis, it is vital that the condition of the fire protection system components are continuously evaluated and tested. This is true even more so for the actual fire pump.
In locations where a fire pump is used to deliver water, there is nothing more important than the functionality of the pump. Without adequate pressure, water-based systems cannot control fires as they are intended to. Which may lead to catastrophic results. The initial investment of a fire pump is quite a substantial one, which makes the protection and maintenance even more important. Fire pumps are manufactured to have long life cycles if the proper measures are taken. Establishing and consistently maintaining a regular inspection cycle is crucial to the lifespan of the fire pump.
However if not maintained, some of the main reasons for pump failure are:
- Misapplication of pump – proper application of the pump is essential to a successful job. Complete site and system information combined with product knowledge is the key here. The goal is to select the correct pump designed to run at its best efficiency point for the required flow. The pump system needs to be constructed of the proper material to resist damage and excessive wear from the product being pumped.
- Deadheading a pump – the heat created in the pump end, by the recirculating product under pressure can severely damage mechanical seals and wear parts. This could be caused by several things from a blocked discharge line, debris caught in the impeller to a vacuum leak in the suction line
- Improper service – a solid service program and completing required repairs at the time of service is at the top of the list for ensuring a piece of equipment can make it through the job from start to finish. Ignoring service intervals can turn a small investment into a major expenditure quickly. Mechanics need to service equipment to identify problems, resist short cuts, and make the proper repairs whether they are on the road or in the shop.
- Solids passing through the pump – even with the best efforts, materials can find their way into the suction line and into the pump ends. Rocks and metal fragments of any size are probably the most devastating and can cause the most severe damage, such as breaking an impeller. It is important to understand ahead of time what is likely to be passed through the pump and use the appropriate size hole screen or strainer, particularly in non-solids handling pumps, and take actions such as keeping the suction inlet elevated from the bottom of the suction point.