Wiring Fire Pumps Correctly: Avoid critical mistakes and expensive rework

By Kyle Krueger | May 14, 2024
Ensuring the safety and functionality of fire protection systems is paramount. One component is the fire pump, responsible for supplying water to the fire suppression system.

Ensuring the safety and functionality of fire protection systems is paramount. One component is the fire pump, responsible for supplying water to the fire suppression system. The installation of such pumps can be intricate, and mistakes in wiring can have consequences in life safety and expensive rework related to Code violations. 

Background details

In this case study, we’ll delve into the mistakes one contractor made while wiring a fire pump replacement and explore preventive measures to avoid these pitfalls.

For context, a large electrical contractor was nearly finished installing new wiring for a replacement fire pump system in a high-rise college dormitory. During what was anticipated to be the final inspection, the project foreman accompanied the local electrical inspector on-site. Unfortunately, the inspection highlighted several critical issues.

  1. The power supply: The new fire pump’s power supply was erroneously connected to the load side of the building’s electrical service disconnect. This violated Section 695.3(A) of the National Electrical Code, which outlines specific permissible power sources for fire pumps, such as an electric utility service connection, a dedicated feeder ahead of the service disconnect or an on-site power production facility.
  2. Supply conductor routing: The supply conductors for the fire pump were installed and routed through the building using the existing conduit system from the original fire pump. NEC sections 695.6(A)(1) and (2) mandate stringent protections for fire pump supply conductors, requiring routing outside the building, encasement in concrete or brick or use of listed fire-­resistant cable systems to ensure operational integrity during a fire.
  3. Alternate power source: A new alternate power supply feeder for the fire pump was routed inside the building, connected to an on-site emergency generator. This arrangement also failed to meet the protective measures stipulated by NEC sections 695.6(A)(1) and (2).

How to fix these violations

These Code violations necessitated a complete rewiring of the fire pump system. These mistakes were further exacerbated by a looming deadline—the impending return of college students to the dormitory. 

The urgency of ensuring life safety precluded any issuance of a conditional occupancy, meaning the EC needed to take swift and comprehensive corrective action. The EC had to cover the cost of an around-the-clock crew to make corrections and meet the timeline.

The EC orchestrated the installation of a dedicated 480V service for the fire pump in accordance with NEC Section 230.2(A)(1). This resolved the compliance issue and facilitated routing the normal power supply outside the building from the new dedicated service.

Requirements for high-rise buildings

Initially, the EC proposed eliminating the alternate power supply altogether based on NEC provisions. However, unbeknownst to them, NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection (Section 5.5) and the International Building Code (Section 403.4.8.4) require fire pumps in high-rise buildings to be connected to the emergency electrical system. 

This discovery resulted in the removal and reinstallation of the fire pump supply from the emergency power supply employing a listed fire-resistant cable system, adding even more cost to the project.

The financial and reputational repercussions were severe, and the contractor’s profits and credibility took a hit. The lessons learned from this case underscore the importance of comprehensive understanding and adherence to multiple codes and standards, beyond those found in the NEC

ECs must be vigilant in recognizing and addressing complex life-safety issues to ensure project success and uphold the highest safety standards, including proactively seeking guidance from local authorities having jurisdiction, especially in areas lacking a formal process for electrical plan review. 

The installation of a fire pump is a critical aspect of building safety, and errors in wiring can have dire consequences. Avoiding mistakes such as noncompliance with the standards and inadequate understanding of system requirements enables ECs to ensure project success, system reliability and effective fire pump installations. 

By implementing preventative measures and adhering to best practices, electrical contractors can uphold the highest standards of safety and protect lives and property in the event of a fire emergency.

About The Author

Kyle Krueger headshot

Kyle Krueger

Executive Director of Codes and Standards

KRUEGER is NECA’s executive director of codes and standards. He has worked in the electrical industry for over 25 years as an inside wireman, authority having jurisdiction and educator. Kyle currently represents NECA on the NEC Correlating Committee, Code-Making Panel 3, NFPA 72 Correlating Committee, NFPA’s Electrical Section Executive Board and the UL Electrical Council. Reach him at kkrueger@





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