Alternative Water Supplies for Public Fire Protection

Alternative water supplies include water supplies other than those that are defined as pressurized, municipal-type water supply systems. Generally speaking fire fighting operations are dependent on water and/or other extinguishing agents to succeed. In developed areas, water supplies are provided through a network of distribution pipes, storage and pumping facilities.

In areas without municipal-type water supplies, fire fighting presents a significantly greater challenge. Historically various methods have been utilized to deliver water from some source location to the fireground. The bucket line is an example of one of the historical methods of delivering water to a fire. Generally speaking these types of water supply delivery methods were not effective with respect to reducing property damage.

Since the advent of automotive fire apparatus and road infrastructure, the capacity to move water from a source location to the fire ground has improved dramatically. The fundamental steps in a shuttle operation are as follows:

  • set up pumper apparatus at fire event and deliver water from temporary storage facility (ex. portable tank) through fire pump to fire;
  • draft water (from a location where water supplies are known to be reliable and accessible) into a mobile water supply apparatus
  • move water from source location to fire event using mobile water supply apparatus
  • dump water into temporary storage facility (ex. portable tank) at fire event location
  • repeat shuttle cycle.

Levels of Service

Unrecognized Shuttle Service

If the level of shuttle service provided by a community does not meet the minimum benchmarks set out in NFPA 1142, then the level of service will not be recognized for fire insurance grading purposes.

Standard Tanker Shuttle Service

To be recognized, for Standard Tanker Shuttle Service, the fire department must have adequate equipment, training and continuous access to approved alternative water supplies to deliver standard tanker shuttle service in accordance with NFPA 1142, Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Fire Fighting. A formal plan for use of alternative water supplies must be in place and available for review detailing the alternative water supply sources and characteristics. To be credited, fire department access to alternative water supplies must be 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. Refill capacity from alternative water supplies using drafting techniques requires a pump that has a minimum capacity of 450 LPM (100 Igpm) at 275-415 kPa (40-60 psi).

Accredited Superior Tanker Shuttle Service

Accredited Superior Tanker Shuttle Service is a recognized equivalency to hydrant protection. To be accredited, fire departments must commit to maintaining a high standard of organization, and practice delivering the service regularly. The fire department must be able to show through testing and documentation that it can continuously provide water supplies in excess of the minimum required for hydranted municipal-type water supplies.

To be recognized for Accredited Superior Tanker Shuttle Service, the system of delivery of water supplies must be well-designed and well-documented. The system of delivery must meet all of the requirements specified for Standard Tanker Shuttle Service and must exceed the requirements in several key areas:

  • The fire department must be able to prove through testing that the specified requirements of Superior Tanker Shuttle Service can be met.
  • For personal lines insurance, the fire department must be able to deliver a flow rate of not less than 950 LPM (200 IGPM) within 5 minutes of arriving at the test site with the first major piece of apparatus (wheel stop).
  • For commercial lines insurance, the fire department must be able to deliver a flow rate of not less than 1900 LPM (400 IGPM) within 5 minutes of arriving at the test site with the first major piece of apparatus (wheel stop).
  • The fire department must be able to deliver the flow rate which will be accredited within 10 minutes of arriving at the test site with the first major piece of apparatus (wheel stop).
  • The volume of water available for fire fighting must be adequate to sustain the accredited flow rate for a duration in accordance with the Fire Underwriters Survey Water Supplies for Public Fire Protection

Further Notes

  • To be recognized for fire insurance grading purposes, the protected property must be located within:
    • Commercial Lines (PFPC) - 5 km of a fire station AND 2.5 km of an approved water supply point
    • Personal Lines (DPG) - 8 km of a fire station AND 5 km of an approved water supply point
  • To be recognized for fire insurance grading purposes, the water-delivery system must be available AND accessible 24 hours per day and 365 days per year;
  • To be recognized for fire insurance grading purposes, the water capacity of alternative water supply sources must be documented for a 50-year drought cycle and documentation must be available for review. Alternative evidence of reliability of supply will be considered on a case by case basis.
  • Fire Underwriters Survey treats dry hydrants with suction points in the same way as it treats standard (pressurized) fire hydrants. Any property within 300 metres of a dry hydrant may be eligible for a Dwelling Protection Grade better than 3B, provided the building is within eight kilometres by road of a responding fire station, the fire department is recognized as meeting the criteria for a Dwelling Protection Grade of 3A or better and the fire department has adequate apparatus to effectively utilize the dry hydrant through suction. Testing of the fire department's capacity to utilize the dry hydrant and documentation of the dry hydrant design and maintenance may also be required.
  • Fire Underwriters Survey may extend credit beyond 300 metres of a fire hydrant when the responding fire company uses large-diameter hose, if the fire department can demonstrate a standard procedure for deployment of hose and also establish a relay operation as needed.

Historical Note: Fire Underwriters Survey has completed Superior Tanker Shuttle Service Testing since 1989 when the first such test was completed in Ontario. Past systems for testing were somewhat less formal. See article: 1988 First Accreditation in Canada

Noted changes to Accredited Superior Tanker Shuttle Service

  1. Defined coverage areas
  2. Formalized requirements for Approved Water Supply Points
  3. Publication of accredited flow rates to the Canadian Fire Insurance Grading Index
  4. 5 year limit on accreditation period
  5. Formalized requirements for documentation
  6. Formalized integration of NFPA 1142

For communities that are currently accredited to deliver Superior Tanker Shuttle Service, a phase in period of 2 years will be used to allow communities time to prepare for the re-accreditation process.

Note: the full Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation document can be downloaded here:
Superior Tanker Shuttle Service Accreditation Protocol

The new protocol is in draft and comments/feedback are welcomed: feedback@fireunderwriters.ca

Why become Accredited to deliver Superior Tanker Shuttle Service?

Property owners in communities with accredited Superior Tanker Shuttle Service are eligible for improved property insurance rates similar to those in communities with municipal-type water supply systems.

Fire Underwriters Survey does not set property insurance rates, however the organization is responsible for publishing the Canadian Fire Insurance Grading Index which is used by insurers across Canada to base insurance rates upon.

Fire Underwriters Survey is recognized by the Insurance Bureau of Canada as being the only organization authorised to publish fire insurance grades in Canada.

Outside Agencies Testing Tanker Shuttle Service?

Communities that have been tested by agencies other than Fire Underwriters Survey may still be eligible to receive Fire Underwriters Survey accreditation. Documentation of test procedures followed and test results must be submitted to the offices of Fire Underwriters Survey in accordance with the Superior Tanker Shuttle Service Protocol document. Applicants that successfully meet the specified criteria will be accredited and receive certification through the Fire Underwriters Survey' Registry of Accredited Superior Tanker Shuttle Services. The Registry is promulgated to the Fire Insurance Grading Index to ensure that the community's fire insurance grades reflect the accreditation.