FIRE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATION IN INDUSTRIAL PLANTS
The organization of fire brigades to protect private plants has of late years been given more attention than ever before. Members of these brigades by frequent prescribed drills given at unexpected times, followed by practical talks on duties, causes of fire, conditions to avoid in plant and their homes, have a decided bearing on the reduction of fire losses. Inasmuch as members are to serve as “first aid” in handling a fire before the arrival of the city department, they should work under orders of the first officer responding from the city department. As there is no sharp dividing line between fire extinguishment and fire prevention, I beg to state that by far the greatest part of our efforts arc directed to fighting fires before they start. A brief description of the department which the writer has organized in our Chicago plant is as follows: Each floor has its own company of twenty-six members, consisting of captain, two lieutenants, six pipemen, six fire door men, three valve men, three fire escape and stairway guards, two chemical extinguisher men, one axe man with Pyrene extinguisher and two men with tarpaulins. There are twenty-four companies in plant during the regular working hours. These companies are drilled bi-weekly at unexpected times. At night the fire protection is taken care of by a detail of night watchmen, who are divided into two companies of nine men each. One company is on duty in a squad room, while the other is pulling boxes throughout the plant. These companies change watches at midnight. In order to make quick response to alarms the fire department is provided with a motor hose wagon of the regulation type, fully equipped with hose, tarpaulins, basement pipe, deluge set and smoke helmets. This automobile is stationed in hose house directly in the rear of fire marshal’s residence, which is located opposite the center of the plant. The firemen are drilled frequently. at unexpected times, of course, and at all hours of the night. These drills, with some slight modifications, follow out the rules of the Fire College of the New York Fire Department. The plant is equipped with a Gamewcll fire alarm system. The sprinkler system for this plant is entirely supervised by The American District Telegraph Supervisory Service. 1 he main source of water supply is from a thirty-six-inch low pressure city main, we being the first consumer, as the city pumping .station, with a capacity of one hundred million gallons every twenty-four hours, is our nearest neighbor. We have three one thousand-gallon Knowles Underwriters pumps, equipped with Fisher automatic governors, with a constant pressure of one hundred and twenty-five pounds. Three steel gravity tanks with a combined capacity of one hundred and eighty thousand gallons, located in a fireproof tow^cr thirty feet above the highest row of sprinklers, cut in automatically in case the pump pressure (through an accident) drops below seventy-five pounds gravity pressure. Steamer connections are so arranged that by pumping into any of the Siamese connections any one of the forty-three thousand sprinkler heads, comprising the entire equipment, can be reached. Safeguarding the Chicago plant and warehouse requires a force of sixty-eight night watchmen, reporting rounds to a central station operated by the American District Telegraph Company. Inspections are carried on constantly—the rules and requirements of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, rules of the Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety, City of Chicago, and the very complete suggestions contained in field practice, inspection manual of the National Fire Protection Association, being our guide. This department believes that fire prevention is entirely a matter of education, and, to this end, talks are given employees from time to time, as well as to the members of the fire companies, on this important subject. To safeguard private institutions, one of the most important points is that of “watchmen.” These men are virtually in charge of the plant for the majority of the twenty-four hours— throughout the year—and great care should be exercised in their selection. A watchman should be active, alert, of middle age, one who will take interest in his duties, and should, of course, be paid for services rendered. He should have at least two nights off each month; in fact, the position should be made such that only the very best men can qualify. Another thing is that a great many employers expect one man to perform watchman’s duties for twelve or fourteen hours out of the twenty-four. No man, whether he be young or old, can satisfactorily “deliver the goods” for a long period of hours. Sometimes watchmen never receive instructions from their superintendent nor from the fire marshal of the city in which they are located. The writer believes it would lie a good thing if the watchmen were under the supervision of the chief of the fire department. Then the chief or his assistants could occasionaly visit the watchmen and instruct them in their duties. This would greatly lessen the fire losses in our respective communities. Watchmen should make nightly reports showing conditions of the property under their control; whether rubbish has been removed from building; oily waste taken to boiler room and burned by day employees; windows properly closed and intact; packing material properly safeguarded and all private fire apparatus in its place and ready for use. These reports should show pressure on sprinkler risers, pressure tanks, pressure on dry system, height of water in gravity tank and condition of fire pump. The report should be turned over to the superintendent, or whoever is in authority and an effort made to rectify mistakes immediately. The watchman should know how to handle controlling valves on sprinkler system, how to set dry valves, how to pump up gravity and pressure tanks and pressure on dry systems. Watchman’s signals should be sent into a central station. One reason for this is that from any part of the plant the watchman can call the fire department. Another is, his rounds are constantly supervised and in the event of an accident to him, or his falling asleep, a runner would be dispatched from the central station, so that the plant in question would have the supervision required. Watchman service should be maintained at all times when the plant is not in operation and the record of such service be shown on such mechanical device as will not permit of the evasion of duty. Records should be checked over, filed and dated each day.
“Fire Marshal, Se»rs, Roebuck & Co., Chicago, Ill. Abstract of paper read at International Association of Fire Fngineers Convention, Cincinnati, O.. Ana. .’11 Sept, a, lit 13. 1