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  1. #1
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    Default Winter pump operations

    I am looking for some information about winter pump operations. I am aware of circulating water, making sure the intakes and discharges are dry and the drains are working properly. I am looking for some type of industry standard for the Midwest region, if there is such a thing, on exactly when you put the tricks in to winter pump operation. Obviously any time you are out in weather lower than 32 degrees, but does anyone include a range of months that this should be done such as October 1st to April 1st or any time the weather is below 32 degrees? We do have a complete winter pump procedure that is done in the winter months every Monday or as needed, but wondered if anyone had anything in writing as to an industry standard. Thanks.


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    Forum Member FIREMECH1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robonel
    We do have a complete winter pump procedure that is done in the winter months every Monday or as needed, but wondered if anyone had anything in writing as to an industry standard. Thanks.
    Kinda curious on what you do on Mondays, and not the rest of the week that is special???

    Otherwise we don't use any tricks. We keep our pumps wet all winter. When they are on scene, they open the tank fill/recirculation valve no more than a quarter opening. It lets the pump build up some heat, and keeps things somewhat warm. As well, the pump heater is set to turn on as soon as the rig is started. It ain't much, but it helps.

    On a side note: Those with Vista systems. Most are set up to where you have to go through the menu to turn on the pump heater by default. If your mechanics or repair techs have the ability, they can reprogram it to where it will come on as soon as you're fired up and ready to go. All you need is a laptop and the software. With the amount new rigs we have, I started to change the settings this year for all of them. In spring, I'll go back, and turn them off. Only takes a few minutes per rig. Something to think about if you guys have it.

    FM1
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    Quote Originally Posted by EastKyFF
    "Firemens gets antsies. Theys wants to goes to fires. Sometimeses they haves to waits."

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    I kinda understand his question. These are things that I've been asked by the Chief before and all I could give him were general answers. So let me ask this; Does anyone know at what ambient temp you would start experiancing freezing problems with a wet pump on an engine that's sitting on scene idling? We here in GA don't typically have problems with freezing pumps but the weather is getting wilder every year. We've never had to deal with cold weather operations like our brothers up north and honestly I don't have answers to some of the questions I'm getting asked lately. I tell my guys to circulate tank water if the temp drops below 25*F and they are not flowing water but it's not something they do on a regular basis and they don't always remember to. I hope I don't sound too dumb here but this old sunny southern boy could use a little advice from from some of you snow bunnys.

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    Things will start to freeze at 32*. It's just a matter of how long you're sitting there without water moving. 30 minutes at 32* you're probably fine, 4 hours you may start freezing things, especially if you haven't pulled your drains.

    There also seems to be a misconception that windchill has an effect on equipment. Windchill is only the measurement of what it feels like to a human.

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    On the older pumpers, water goes to the gauges to make that little needle move! That means water is mostly always in the tube and to the gauge(s).

    Running the pump at a fast idle, say 800 to 900 turns will keep the water moving, but if you have water going to discharges, booster, 2-1/2" and larger outlets water sits there as the gates are closed there is no place for the water to go.

    The best bet if you are concern with freezing then drain the pump, all lines, drains, but you may need to run compressed air in the lines so what water is left laying there will be pushed out.

    Years back, we ran with dry pumps in the winter, as it only takes a minute or less to prime a pump and water flowing.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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    Unhappy Winter Conditions

    The only place we have had problems with a frozen pump or two is when a rig is dropped off at the maintenance shop and left outside and nobody remembers to pull the drains. Those big midship pump castings will crack and you start over with a new pump$$$
    Fire Research sells 12 volt heat tape that you can wrap around the pressure gage lines to keep them from freezing. Similar to the heat tape used on pipes under a mobile home, but 12 volt instead of 110 volt.

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    Our policy is at 35 degrees and the pumps are to be ran. When you arrive on scene you engage the pump and let it re-circlulate. In the cold time of the year I preset set my tank to pump and tank fill so that I don't have to do it when we arrive.

    On anything that has an gas powered pump (brush trucks and tankers) they are started before you leave the station.

    We run our pumps wet all the time, we have been told/taught that unless you have ALL the water out of the pump it will freeze much faster than a wet pump.

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    Forum Member FIREMECH1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by donethat
    The only place we have had problems with a frozen pump or two is when a rig is dropped off at the maintenance shop and left outside and nobody remembers to pull the drains. Those big midship pump castings will crack and you start over with a new pump$$$
    We've got an 11th Commandment... If it holds water, touches water, flows water, at 35* it goes in the building. If not, someone is going to get their head and *** rearranged.

    FM1
    I'm the one Fire and Rescue calls, when they need to be Rescued.

    Quote Originally Posted by EastKyFF
    "Firemens gets antsies. Theys wants to goes to fires. Sometimeses they haves to waits."

  9. #9
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    Default Winter Pump Operations

    Here are a few tips:

    If the pump manufacturer allows it for your model of pump:

    1. Pour an anti-feeze solution in the pump. I prefer to use the non-toxic RV antifreeze.

    2. Wipe anti-seize compound around the threads of the discharge and suction caps. Makes
    it easier to remove them in cold weather.

    3. Ensure a heat pan is installed under the pump (midship, etc.)

    4. Ensure the hydrant drains after using it. If not, it can freeze and a costly repair will
    be in place. Also, in the spring, specifically inspect each hydrant that was used during
    the cold weather months to see that it drained properly and did not freeze.

    5. Ensure you circulate water through any hoselines. Leave the nozzle of each deployed
    hoseline open slightly. Also, if a coupling connection leaks water, that is OK, too.
    Frozen hoselines are not usable and are not very easy to retrieve. In fact those frozen
    hoselines will have to be loaded on flatbed trailers and transported to a warm building to
    thaw.

    Other tips:

    1. Keep a chain or tow rope and clevis w/ pin on your rig. If your pumper gets stuck out in
    cold weather you want that rig pulled out NOW or you will risk freezing the pump.

    2. Keep one or more #10 shovels on the rig in case you are stuck and need to shovel.
    Also handy to shovel out a hydrant buried in snow.

    3. Keep extra pairs of gloves (various sizes, etc.) on each rig, so the firefighters (pump
    operator, too.) can change out their wet gloves into dry ones.

    4. Keep a 5 gallon bucket of sand in one of the compartments. If you are stuck on the ice,
    you can pour it around the wheels to help with traction. You can also pour it around
    the ground by the pump panel for foot traction.

    5. If possible, have a minimum of two fire rigs that are capable of pumping water respond
    to structure fires. If one freezes up, then the other rig can still pump. I know alot of
    departments that have responded to structure fires and when they arrived, the pump
    was froze up. This included pumpers with heat pans.

    6. Expect SCBA regulators to freeze up. When the pumper gets back to the station, do not
    forget to look after the SCBA, too.

    Hope this info helps. Its going to be lows of -20 F here for three to four days. This is the time of year where fire prevention efforts pay off!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firetacoma1 View Post
    There also seems to be a misconception that windchill has an effect on equipment. Windchill is only the measurement of what it feels like to a human.

    Not necessarily true. Inanimate objects exposed to wind will cool faster than objects that are in still air. So a front mount pump that's out in the wind will most likely cool faster than a mid ship pump that doesn't get as much air flow.


    Shovels are a must have in case you need to dig out hydrants or other objects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    Not necessarily true. Inanimate objects exposed to wind will cool faster than objects that are in still air. So a front mount pump that's out in the wind will most likely cool faster than a mid ship pump that doesn't get as much air flow.


    Shovels are a must have in case you need to dig out hydrants or other objects.
    It may have more exposure to the cold... but a thermometer in wind and a thermometer out of the wind both outside will register the same temperature.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firetacoma1 View Post
    It may have more exposure to the cold... but a thermometer in wind and a thermometer out of the wind both outside will register the same temperature.
    Not trying to be an ***, but why does water freeze on mirrors and things like that going down the road at highway speed and when you stop or slow up it melts off?

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    I can't say I've ever noticed that happening. Strap a thermometer out there and see what results you get.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firetacoma1 View Post
    It may have more exposure to the cold... but a thermometer in wind and a thermometer out of the wind both outside will register the same temperature.


    heat two thermometers up to 90 degrees or whatever you want. Put one in the wind, and put one in a spot where it will be protected. The one in the wind will cool down to the outside temp at a higher rate. I guarantee it, its science.


    Its true wind chill won't cool something down to below the outside temp, but it will cause it to cool faster. The key here is it only cools faster, that is loses its heat. It won't get colder than an object protected from wind, but it will cool to ambient temps faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    heat two thermometers up to 90 degrees or whatever you want. Put one in the wind, and put one in a spot where it will be protected. The one in the wind will cool down to the outside temp at a higher rate. I guarantee it, its science.


    Its true wind chill won't cool something down to below the outside temp, but it will cause it to cool faster. The key here is it only cools faster, that is loses its heat. It won't get colder than an object protected from wind, but it will cool to ambient temps faster.
    You're right... the whole radiator fan principle. I had kind of forgotten about that I suppose! Still, it's not wind chill as it will never get colder than the ambient temperature.

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    Default Warm Water Tank

    An old practice to keep the water in the water tank warm (or prevent freezing if the furnace at the fire hall went out), was to place a livestock water trough heater in the water, through the fill hole at the top of the tank.

    I know this was done years ago when steel water tanks were used. Now that newer tank materials are used, I have not seen this done anymore. If you have a water tank other than steel, you may want to check with the manufacturer before doing this.

    Livestock water trough heaters are usually sold at farm and livestock supply stores.

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    Couple thoughts.

    Instead of sand on the truck, oil dry or kitty litter works as well for traction and does double duty for spills.

    Would the decrease it temp when exposed to wind (air circulation) just have to do with convection? Heat transfers off faster because there is more constant cool air to absorb the heat.

    Our department also recirculates on scene, keeps the line cracked when not in use, have everyone ready to break and roll hose as soon as it's shut down, etc. On cross mounts and grass rigs they are started before they leave the station with grass rigs having the booster reel hose cracked and in the tank.

    As stated there are a lot of variables but on a wet midship coming out of a 70 degree station it will take a while for the cast and water to cool to freezing because that is a lot of mass to cool down. The gauges, discharges, etc will of course freeze faster. It's very cheap insurance to circulate the water and take the precautionary steps instead of freezing the pump.
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    Has anyone used enclosed top mount pump panels? I hear they are great for cold weather operations.
    Last edited by FireRescue61; 12-17-2009 at 11:10 AM.

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    Not trying to be an ***, but why does water freeze on mirrors and things like that going down the road at highway speed and when you stop or slow up it melts off?

    Same Principle applies here. As you travel you create your wind and cool the window quicker than the defroster can warm it. Once you stop, less wind and the defroster can heat the window up again.

    SMT

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    That is why the mirrors now have heaters to melt the frost and ice.

    Drain the pumps and run dry if you are in a severe weather area.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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