The Role of a Fire Fighting Pump and How to Use One

If you’re a firefighter or work for a fire department, you’ve probably heard of the jockey pump. But do you know what it is or how it works within the fire protection system? A good jockey pump is vital to the success of any fire fighting operation. But to fully understand the role of a fire fighting pump and how to use one requires proper training and experience.

Most fire departments utilize a diesel engine type fire fighting pump that’s designed to supply water pressure to their sprinkler systems. Unlike a fire hydrant, these pumps deliver a higher water flow that meets the hydraulic needs of a sprinkler system’s risers and hose standpipes, even when the municipal water supply is low. Fire fighting pumps are also used to fill tanks and provide water to fire hoses during an emergency, such as flooding a house or other buildings.

These pumps can be electric or manual start. The electric fire fighting pumps operate by turning a key, much like a car, while the manual or recoil start models require the user to pull on a handle/cable to get it started. Some fire fighting pumps have the battery and harness set mounted on the base of the unit inside the roll frame for easy portability.

The size of the fire hose determines the amount of water pressure a fire fighting pump can produce. The larger the hose, the more pressure is generated. The diameter of the hose is another factor that affects the pressure. While there are different nozzle options available, it’s best to choose one that produces a single, uniform stream. The type of fire hose friction loss also affects the pump’s water pressure.

A good pump operator knows the correct water pressures for each and every attack line, hose lay and water-movement function the apparatus is designed to perform. This is a skill that can’t be learned in a classroom or through books; it requires years of on-the-job experience to become proficient.

As the seasons change, fire department maintenance teams are preparing to perform their annual tests on their fire fighting pumps. These tests are required to be done to meet minimum code requirements and ensure the pump is in working order. These tests include calculating and recording the pump’s maximum water flow and determining whether or not it is producing a sufficient water flow for the nozzles on the fire hose.

The fire fighting pump’s water flow is determined by the size of its inlet valve, the hose it is connected to and how much friction loss exists between the hose and its fittings and pipes. The pump’s maximum head, or height it can push water over, is also determined by this data. The optimum fire fighting pump is a combination of the right nozzle, a large enough inlet valve and a high-pressure fire hose. To get a better idea of the type of fire fighting pump that may be suitable for your operations, take a look at Water Master’s Fire / High Pressure Pump Charts HERE.