Philly Skyscraper Douses City During Botched Test
November 8, 2019
The next time you find yourself thinking, "This will only take five minutes. Who's going to notice?" stop yourself and remember the case of Philadelphia's One Liberty Place. In the age of smartphones and social media, five minutes can last forever.
At around 6:15 AM on Sunday, Nov. 3, news site Billy Penn posted a video of a torrent of water pouring from near the top of One Liberty Place, asking if anyone had any information as to what was going on. The striking 61-story-tall building looked for all the world like it was relieving itself, sparking colorful commentary on Twitter and other social media channels. At street level, the video footage looks like clips from hurricane coverage.
In actuality, the building was conducting a test on the fire suppression system. From the flow of water and location of the stream, it looks like the building passed it's rooftop standpipe test with flying colors. Unfortunately, the facility was built without a drainage system to route the test water to the stormwater system. Normally in that case, the flow of water would have been controlled with playpipes and handheld pitots, and the street below would have been closed off with police department assistance. However, it appears both the property manager and sprinkler company failed to notify the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections, according to NBC10.
Standpipes must be tested every five years, according to NFPA 25. "Flow testing of standpipe systems is more involved and as a result is often not performed properly or according to ITM standards," writes Todd Smith, mechanical engineer at RMF Engineering, in a Building Operating Management article. He discusses best practices for standpipe testing, as well as other aspects of testing water-based fire suppression systems.
Naomi Millán is senior editor of Building Operating Management.