By Rod Carringer
Al Petrillo’s great article on the impact of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1962, Standard for the Care, Use, Inspection, Service Testing and Replacement of Fire Hose, Couplings, Nozzles and Fire Hose Appliances, (2013 ed.), in my perspective, alluded to what will be only the tip of the iceberg as it relates to the testing of nozzles and appliances. As we look more closely at the wording and intent of the standard, the ability of many departments to actually meet the requirements may actually be quite limited.
More than Hose
The expanded standard, aside from testing hose, requires the following:
• Handheld nozzles are all to be tested as frequently as the hose they are used on is tested and shall be both flow and hydrostatically tested.
• Hydrostatic testing requires a minimum of 300- up to 450-pound-per-square-inch (psi) pressures, and flow testing requires a calibrated flowmeter.
• All appliances such as gated wyes, manifolds, portable monitors, ball valves, and even intake valves are to be hydrostatically tested annually.
• Intake valves are to be removed from the apparatus and tested to the standard. The attached pressure relief valve shall be removed and tested separately.
• Suction hose is to be vacuum-tested and measured to 22 inches of mercury for 10 minutes, and a clear inspection cap is to be installed.
As the scope of these standard changes sinks in, I remain somewhat torn. On one hand, as I am a corporate officer of Task Force Tips (TFT), the focus on safety, service, and repair of noncompliant products, and even the recommended replacement schedule, is of the utmost importance to help keep our responders safe. On the other hand, as I am a nearly 40-year veteran of a small volunteer fire department, this is yet one more unfunded mandate we have to try to deal with. The burden of annual testing of hose, ladders, pumps, and now nozzles, appliances, and flow hardware forces us into a position of either committing scarce human and financial resources to accomplish the standard’s compliance recommendations or accepting the potential liability should one of our untested and undocumented components fail during service.
As you can see, this really is a multifaceted issue and like it or not, since earlier this year, it’s the law of the land when it comes to testing, inspection, care, and replacement of hose, nozzles, and appliances. If you are associated with a hose testing company or are a hose testing franchise owner, this standard and the associated business expansion are truly windfalls. But if you’re an agency that has always maintained a “do-it-yourself” attitude when it comes to testing, maintenance, and service, there will certainly be some challenges to achieve compliance. As one of the world’s largest producers of high-performance water flow equipment, TFT will continue to offer its perspective and interpretation of the performance and testing aspects of NFPA 1962. Following are some of the key areas of interest we’ve identified from conversations with distributors and emergency responders.
Hydrostatic Testing Equipment
When hydrostatically testing nozzles and appliances, the following criteria applies:
• Nozzles, appliances, and hardware shall be attached to a hydrostatic pressure source capable of exerting 300 psi, or 1.5 times the manufacturer’s recommended maximum. For TFT, many items are rated at 300 psi, so the required equipment needs to exert up to 450-psi hydrostatic pressure, depending on the component being tested.
• The pressure being exerted on the product being tested shall be increased at each level by 50 psi and held for 30 seconds without visible leakage. At the maximum pressure, the hardware shall be held for 60 seconds with no visible leakage.
• Aside from the necessary calibrated gauge on the hydrostatic pressure source, appropriately rated fittings, hoses, and threaded test caps need to be sourced to safely complete these tests.
• It is also recommended in the standard that some sort of containment device, blast mat, or heavy tarp be used to contain shrapnel in case of a catastrophic failure.
• Even suction hose will not escape testing and requires that a vacuum test of 22 inches of mercury be held for 10 minutes using an accurate vacuum-measuring instrument. A clear disc shall be used to seal the hose and allow for a visual inspection of the interior of the hose.
From an equipment needs perspective, you will note immediately that a hydrostatic pressure device, a vacuum pump, calibrated gauges, appropriate fittings, caps, and hose will all be required to accomplish accurate hydrostatic and vacuum testing as referenced in NFPA 1962. This equipment alone could cost a department thousands of dollars, require continued annual calibration, and certainly will consume many hours of labor to manage even the few functions I have noted above. Also, this is just an overview of the hydrostatic testing required. The following thoughts deal with actual flow testing of the nozzles, documentation, and a replacement plan.
Nozzle Flow Testing
Flow testing handheld nozzles to the performance criteria outlined in the standard has already been met with a wide range of varying opinions on how an agency can best, and with the least amount of effort, develop procedures that will accurately reflect the true performance of its nozzles. Here is a little tip-testing directly off the discharge on the pump panel, while easy, typically does not offer the best results. Also, a nozzle that has seen no maintenance or may have sustained damage during the past decade may not pass either. Aside from these key mistakes, there are several factors to keep in mind when flow testing nozzles.
Much of the nozzle performance criteria are duplicated from NFPA 1964, Standard for Spray Nozzles. Below are some of the key elements of those procedures.
• First, a calibrated flowmeter and pressure gauge will be required. The nozzle shall be mounted in some manner to allow both the flow rate and base nozzle pressure to be accurately measured and recorded. To get a true measurement, TFT recommends testing with hose the size and length that would typically be used during operations to ensure a practical and accurate result. (i.e., 150 feet of 1¾-inch hose or 150 feet of 2½-inch for larger flow nozzles). This attack line can easily supply a portable monitor and allow measurement devices to be easily installed. This also requires limited effort to test a large quantity of nozzles and allows it to be done safely.
• Fixed- and selectable-gallonage nozzles by the standard are considered acceptable within a flow range of -0 to +10 percent. That means that a fixed-gallonage nozzle rated at 150 gpm at 100 psi will pass its test if the flow is between 150 and 165 gallons per minute (gpm) at a 100-psi base nozzle pressure. This is also true of a selectable-gallonage nozzle at each of its flow settings.
• Constant-pressure variable-gallonage nozzles, known as automatics, are tested a little differently. The flow is increased to the minimum gpm rating of the nozzle. For instance an automatic nozzle with a flow rate of 95 to 200 gpm would start with the nozzle fully open and the flow rate brought up to 95 gpm. At the minimum rated flow, the base nozzle pressure is recorded. As the flow is continually increased to the maximum rated flow, the nozzle pressure is recorded at select intervals. The nozzle will be considered compliant if, through its rated flow range, it does not vary more or less than 15 percent. That means an automatic nozzle rated at 95 to 200 gpm at 100 psi will pass its test if the pressures noted at each flow are between 85 and 115 psi.
Annual hydrostatic and flow testing of critical water flow equipment, as outlined in NFPA 1962, is essential for the safety of emergency responders. How to best address these requirements, acquire the necessary testing components, and manage testing and documentation now become our next big challenges. Also, documentation and record keeping will be critical elements of an overall testing plan as will the newest recommendation that requires creating a replacement plan for all of the components to be tested under the standard.
As you can see, I mentioned earlier that testing nozzles and appliances will be the tip of the iceberg as the scope of this standard is better interpreted and more widely understood. As always, the manufacturers of the products you use remain the best source for great information on how to accomplish this expanding standard.
ROD CARRINGER is TFT’s chief marketing officer with responsibilities for global brand and business development. As an active 39-year veteran firefighter and retired chief of operations, he continues his departmental training activities, routinely authors articles on fire suppression strategies, and has been a frequent presenter at local and national conferences. He also serves on the board of directors of the Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association (FEMSA), representing more than 140 companies providing products and services to millions of fire and EMS professionals throughout the world.