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What Is a Standpipe System?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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A standpipe system is a fire safety system which is designed to provide rapid access to water in the event that a fire breaks out. Standpipes are installed as standalone systems which act like building-specific fire hydrants, providing fire protection which will be readily available to fire fighters. It is also possible to see standpipe systems bundled with sprinkler systems, providing automatic or manual sprinklers in addition to connection points for fire hoses.

These systems are most commonly installed in buildings which are tall, large, or highly specialized, in which case a fire might cause damage or problems. They can be installed in other types of structures as well. Dry standpipe systems consist of a series of pipes which bring water to various points in a building when it is pumped in by fire fighters, with the pipes remaining dry and empty when there is not a need. Wet systems are “charged,” meaning that they are filled with water, at all times.

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The design of a standpipe system is intended to maintain pressure in the event of a fire. A common problem for firefighters is that it can be difficult to get pressure, especially on high floors, which makes it harder to pump water quickly enough to put the fire out. Depending on the design of the system, standpipes may not bring water to all floors. Some buildings concentrate on lower floors to give people time to evacuate, running a risk of losing upper floors to fire. Common access points for the standpipe system include stairwells and hallways.

In a standpipe sprinkler system, the system carries water for the sprinkler system and for the standpipes. In other cases, the systems may be run independently to provide redundant coverage. This means that if one system fails, the other may still function, which can be beneficial for some types of buildings.

Having a standpipe system reduces liability in the event of a fire. Insurance companies usually offer a discount to buildings with fire protection measures such as a standpipe system in place, and the more systems they have, the cheaper insurance will be. People are also rewarded for redundant fire protection systems, as insurance companies are usually happy to see any sort of measure which will reduce the risk that they will need to pay out.

Some building codes require standpipes for certain kinds of buildings. It is a good idea to consult a fire protection official to find out if such a system is recommended or needed, and to get specific advice on designing the system.

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