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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

NFPA Coffee Break Training: Fire Pumps: Fire Pump Test Headers

Fire Pumps: Test Headers No. FP-2015-29 July 21, 2015 

Learning Objective: The student will be able to describe the parts and functions of a fire pump test header.

This assembly of fire protection valves attached to the side of a building is called a “fire pump test header.” It consists of a manifold connected to the discharge side of a stationary fire pump and, in this case, has six threaded 2 1/2-inch (64-millimeter (mm)) hose station outlets connected to it.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection requires a means for conducting annual flow tests on stationary fire pump assemblies to ensure that the pump meets its performance requirements and does not need repair. Annual pump tests are required by the model fire codes and refer to NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of WaterBased Fire Protection Systems for test criteria.

Fire pump tests are generally conducted by one or more qualified people who monitor the pump during operation, track its performance, and watch for such potential failures as partially closed valves, overheating, cavitation, obstructions or excessive leaks.

During pump testing, the technicians will attach 2 1/2-inch (64-mm) hoses to each hose station. A smooth bore nozzle or “Underwriter’s playpipe” will be attached to the discharge end of the hose where pitot readings can be taken to convert discharge pressure to flow. The pump is run through a series of operational tests to assess its performance and determine if it is in peak operating condition.

NFPA 20 allows the use of a test header or flow meter. Where a test header is employed, one rule of thumb to determine the pump size to which it is connected is to count the number of hose outlets and multiply by 250 gallons per minute (gpm) (946 liters per minute (Lpm)). In the photograph, six hose stations multiplied by 250 gpm (946 Lpm) is an indicator that the fire pump is listed to deliver 1,500 gpm (5,676 Lpm). If a flow meter is  installed, it may discharge through a large-diameter orifice that has no hose outlets.

Operations personnel should understand the difference between the test header and a fire department connection that may be located nearby. Often, they look remarkably similar. Proper signage installed and inspected during the fire protection system installation and good preincident planning will aid in reducing confusion during emergencies. The test header is for water discharge, and the fire department connection is intended for an engine or pumper to supplement the water-based fire protection system from another source, such as public water main, tank or reservoir.

For more information, consider enrolling in the National Fire Academy (NFA) course “Water-based Fire Protection System Plans Review” (R/N0137). Information and applications can be obtained at

nfacourses/catalog/details/10562. The course is available at the NFA in Emmitsburg, Maryland, or through your state fire service training agency.


Eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) For archived downloads, go to:

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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