Advance planning now can avert costly disruptions when an aging fire suppression system malfunctions.
Aging fire suppression systems pose a huge financial and safety risk for fixed facilities such as manufacturing plants, food processing facilities and refineries. Should the pumps malfunction, shutting down the facility to remain in code compliance, avoid liability and protect employees would hit the bottom line hard. Yet most plant maintenance, environmental and safety managers have no plan for a temporary fire suppression system to replace the permanent one during maintenance or repairs. In an emergency, lack of such a plan could waste precious hours or even days.
Partnering with a temporary pump solutions vendor to design a temporary fire suppression system plan before it’s needed is a smart strategy that can protect profits and people.
The case for front-end planning
Some plants and refineries in use today are 40, 50 or 60 years old, and so are the pumps that supply the water for their fire suppression systems. Many of these pumps haven’t been properly maintained in decades and are at high risk for mechanical failure.
Pump failures often lead to middle-of-the-night calls to an equipment rental vendor for a temporary fire pump. But solving the problem isn’t always as simple as ordering a piece of equipment.
No two fire suppression systems are the same. Flow and pressure requirements and pump data are needed to select the right high-efficiency temporary centrifugal pump, and often in older facilities this documentation is lost or hard to find. As a result, when a system failure occurs, engineers may have to manually inspect the data plate of each pump and do other detective work in multiple places to determine the incoming pressure, the total system pressure requirements and the flow demand.
A better solution: Have a temporary pump vendor visit the facility and create a plan for different pump failures or other fire suppression service disruptions so that when a failure occurs, disruptions to operations are minimized. The solutions provider will perform tasks such as observing and documenting the incoming pressure, total system demand, suction and discharge connection diameters and types, and pump and motor data plates. With that information in hand, the provider can then select the power, size and type of the pump and high-pressure hoses a temporary system will require.
Temporary fire suppression system applications
Temporary firewater pumps come in handy at multiple points in the life of a facility.
Sudden pump failure
If a catastrophic failure occurs, a facility’s fire suppression pump may have to be shipped back to the manufacturer to be refurbished, or a new pump may have to be ordered. In today’s supply chain environment, a new pump could take as long as six months to a year to arrive. A temporary fire suppression system can take over in the meantime to allow the facility to continue operating.
Performing regular preventive maintenance on facility pumps can help them last longer, which delays the need for new pumps, saving plants money. Temporary fire pumps allow facilities to take permanently installed pumps offline for maintenance and if needed, repairs.
Additions to a facility usually require an upgrade to the fire suppression system to handle the extra load. But long lead times for new pumps can potentially delay the construction schedule. Having a plan for a temporary fire suppression system can rescue the project timeline in the event the permanent pump can’t be delivered and installed in time for system testing or operational need.
Choosing a planning partner
Not all temporary pump vendors offer planning for temporary fire suppression systems. Few are turnkey solutions providers with the in-house engineering expertise to create a design that integrates with the permanent system to provides the necessary performance. United Rentals Fluid Solutions, recognizing the importance of this planning, provides this service as a complimentary visit.
With the largest inventory of diesel and electric drive centrifugal pumps in the U.S., United Rentals Fluid Solutions can supply the right pump for the project. Facilities can choose electric pumps to reduce their emissions, and UL/NFPA rated pumps are available if required. For added convenience, United Rentals Fluid Solutions can install system accessories such as pressure transducers, variable frequency drives and automatic cellular dialers on pumps.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Creating a plan for temporary fire suppression puts facilities a step ahead when an emergency strikes. It also reduces the chances of catastrophic system failure by allowing plants to perform preventive pump maintenance and keep their aging pumps in good working order for years to come.