FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS FOR INDUSTRIAL PLANTS
The subject of fire alarm signaling protection for large industrial plants is one which is receiving general attention among those officials responsible for the protection of life and property, and for the safeguarding of the producing power of their plants from curtailment. It necessarily follows that the subject should be of interest to public officials in charge of municipal fire alarm telegraph systems. Many large industrials are located where there is no public fire alarm system, and in such properties the importance of supplementing their fire-fighting organizations with an adequate signaling system is generally appreciated. There are, however, more great industrial properties that are situated within the protection of public fire departments and alarm systems. Many of them maintain well equipped fire brigades and are using fire alarm apparatus of a type and extent equal to that in large towns. An interesting example of the extent to which such properties are protected is a large industrial property in the East which is using 145 non-interfering and successive boxes, more than 100 electro-mechanical gongs, a number of registers and time-stamps, a 20circuit automatic repeater, and a 20-circuit storage battery and operating switchboard. It being a generally accepted proposition that no matter how complete and well organized a plant fire brigade may be, it should not be depended upon except to perform immediate and efficient fire duty pending the arrival of a regularly organized municipal fire department—or to cover the possibility of such department being occupied elsewhere at another fire—the question of summoning the municipal department is one that should receive the most careful engineering consideration. There is no public utility which more closely touches the daily lives of all citizens than the public firealarm system and the fire department organization which it calls into action. Just how far a city should go in extending its fire alarm system, or in permitting its extension for the special use of large property owners, is a large question the deciding of which naturally rests in a great degree with the city official directly in charge of the public alarm service. It is generally held to be true that the time lost between the discovery of a fire and the sounding of an alarm is one of the chief causes for large fire loss. The logical extension of the public alarm service, therefore, would be along lines which would enable the sending of an alarm to be practically simultaneous with the discovery of a fire, and would result in a condition which may be likened to that of the public water supply system, which is extended from the streets into the interiors of all buildings. The large industrial plant within a city or town presents an important consideration to the public official, outside of the fundamental one of protection for the property of its owner, and of the lives of its employees. The prosperity of the community in general is intimately associated with such plants. They At the same time’, it will, of course, be borne should, therefore, be encouraged to install fire alarm protection and be able thereby to quickly secure the services of their own internal organizations and of the public departments, in mind that the public fire alarm telegraph is maintained for the benefit of all citizens equally, and that in the extension of its benefits in special cases, no hazard should be permitted or made possible which might result in decreased efficiency of the system as a whole. It is not the province of this paper to discuss in detail any particular method of alarm system for industrial properties, but to express the deep conviction that officials in charge of public fire alarm systems should continuously urge and encourage the extension of their systems, under proper safeguards and restrictions, and upon the broad ground that the lives and prosperity of the citizens of the community depend primarily upon the fire alarm telegraph, which, unless developed to its highest efficiency and utility, prevents the public fire department organization from operating at the maximum value of which it is inherently capable.
What Some Industrials are Doing.
It will probably be interesting to the gentlemen af this convention to know briefly what some of the large industrials in this country are doing in the line of installing fire alarm service. The plant to which reference was made in the first part of this paper and which is using 145 non-interfering boxes and a 20circuit repeater, maintains a circuit to the headquarters of the city fire alarm system, which circuit is controlled by the repeater cylinder. In this manner signals from any of the 145 boxes can be transmitted to the city department simultaneously with the transmission throughout the plant. Thus the public fire department has the benefit of 145 alarm stations throughout this property without in any manner jeopardizing the integrity of the public system by extending its circuits throughout the plant. One of the largest cities in the country, which has within its limits a very important industrial employing several thousand men, regarded the value of that plant to the community in business, in employment and in the distribution of wages as of such importance that it provided in its cable service a circuit between such plant and the central office, and maintains the plant fire alarm which consists of successive boxes, gongs, registers and other apparatus. There are many enterprises primarily private, but practically public, that merit special encouragement and consideration in the extension of the public fire alarm system to more thoroughly safeguard them. Among such properties are those of street railway companies with their car barns, shops and power houses; telephone companies with their central office exchanges; railroad terminals, yards and shops, and the properties of similar quasi-public corporations. A property loss in any of those would directly affect the convenience and the business life of a community, and a partial cessation of transportation facilities or telephone traffic would entail serious business loss.
State Laws for Factory Fire Alarm Systems.
During the last few years, and as the result of disastrous fires causing serious loss of life, a number of States have passed laws requiring factory fire alarm systems to be installed for the purpose of enabling employees to be efficiently drilled in exiting from buildings, and the wisdom of such legislation is being demonstrated in practice. It. is held by many of those who make a specialty of fire protection engineering, that in such cases— where the protection of human life is the first consideration—all such so-called factory drill systems should be supplemented by or combined with means for calling the public fire department over the public fire alarm system. This belief is based upon the fact that the presence of a body of well-equipped and experienced fire fighters is necessary to take control of the situation, prevent panic, inspire confidence and assist in the orderly and safe exit from the building. The fire alarm telegraph system is to the community, in a sense, what the scouting aeroplane is to a modern army— the means whereby intelligence as to the existence of danger is quickly and accurately conveyed to the fighting organization. The nearer a fire alarm system approaches an area which may be subject to fire, the greater its value becomes, and if a study of the subject by those most qualified by experience and daily life to deal with it is undertaken with a view of finding some proper and safe method by which its benefits can be made more quickly and universally available, great good will be accomplished and the heavy annual toll of fire loss be largely reduced.
*Sales Engineer, Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Company. Paper read at the annual convention of the International Association of Municipal Electricians, held at Cincinnati, O., Aug. 24-27, 1915.