Back to Basics: Standpipe Systems

Codes will speculate the type of system that will be installed and where the hose connections shall be located.


Standpipes are a critical tool that require preplanning on first responding apparatus in order to be used effectively. The initial approval process for these systems is critical and the fire prevention bureau can assist responding crews by ensuring proper installation and maintenance of these systems. Standpipe systems vary in design, use, and location. These factors vary based on the adopted code; the use, size, and type of building they are installed in. Typically, model codes refer to NFPA 14, Standpipe and Hose Systems for the design, installation, and maintenance of these systems.

Standpipe systems are a series of pipe which connects a water supply to hose connections that are intended for fire department or trained occupant use. At times building are provided with only piping for the standpipe system. Many current designs include a combination system which supplies the sprinkler system and standpipe system. The location of hose connections varies (based on adopted fire and building codes per the local authority having jurisdiction) and can include stairways on buildings over 30 feet in height, Group A occupancies with occupant loads over 1,000 persons, covered malls, stages, underground buildings, or heliports.

Codes will speculate the type of system that will be installed and where the hose connections shall be located. Section 905 of the International Fire Code (IFC), 2006 edition spells out the requirements of when and where standpipe connections are required. The IFC would require a standpipe system in a building where the floor level of the highest story is located more than 30 feet above the lowest level of fire department access. The code would also give requirements on the location of hose connection to be located at an intermediate floor level landing between floors unless an alternate location is approved by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Once the adopted code states a system is required the designer and AHJ would go to the referenced standard to determine the design requirements.

Model fire and building codes give the requirements for when standpipe systems are installed. The specific type of system is based on the occupancy classification and building height. Standpipes have three major classifications:

  • Class I standpipes serve a 2.5-inch fire hose connection for fire department use. These connections must match the hose thread utilized by the fire department and are typically found in stairwells of buildings.
  • Class II standpipes serve a 1.5-inch fire hose connection and are typically found in cabinets. These are intended for trained occupant use and are spaced according to the hose length. The hose length and connection spacing is intended for all spaces of the building.
  • Class III standpipes have both connections of Class I and II. Many times these connections will include a 2.5-inch reducer to a 1.5-inch connection.

NFPA 14 is the standard which the system shall be designed, installed, and maintained to. The correct edition should be correlated with the adopted code of the jurisdiction Once it is determined that a standpipe system is required, the type of system should be determined. These types include:

  • Automatic Standpipe systems are designed to provided the need pressure and water supply when the valve is opened.
  • Automatic Dry Standpipe system is only designed to have water in the system piping when the system is in use.
  • Manual Dry Standpipe system are exclusively for fire department use and require a fire department pumper to supply the need pressure and water supply through a fire department connection.
  • Semi-Automatic Standpipe System are capable of providing the need pressure and water supply, after the activation of a control device or fire pump.
  • Wet Standpipe systems are wet at all times.
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