FIRE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATION IN INDUSTRIAL PLANTS

FIRE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATION IN INDUSTRIAL PLANTS

Maxim Motor city Service Truck at Watertown, Mass.

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

FIRE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATION IN INDUSTRIAL PLANTS*

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FIRE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATION IN INDUSTRIAL PLANTS*

It is not my intention to tell you what in my opinion is the proper means for an industrial plant to take for the prevention of fires, nor for the extinguishment of same, because we will all agree that the character of the risk must be what will govern the means to be taken to prevent fires and to put them out when they occur. So I simply want to tell you briefly what we have done at the plant of Harrison Brothers & Company. This blueprint shows our plant. It comprises eighty buildings or complete factories. Harrison Brothers and Company are engaged in the manufacture of all the acids, including nitric acid, that you heard about yesterday—also white lead, paint, dry colors and all the materials which are considered by insurance interests and firemen as hazards. It is the only factory I think in the country which is engaged in the manufacture of all these products. This necessarily means the storing of large quantities of nitrate of soda and materials of that kind. It is right in the heart of the city of Philadelphia and let me say right here it is considered to be a little town in itself, situated on the Schuylkill river, and was in the extreme end of the town when the town was young, the plant having been established in 1793. Let me also say this, that my main effort has been for the prevention of fire, but when a fire occurs I am not only very ready but very willing, although we have our own fire-fighting equipment, to send for the city department just as quickly as I possibly can. And in this connection I will demonstrate these things to you as I go along. Here is a blueprint of the plant under which the entire business of Harrison Brothers and Company is controlled, centering as it does with the president of the company. This line shows us the safety division, which comprises the hospital, of which we have a large one, and all the men in the place are taken care of there when sick no matter what their sickness occurs from, and furnished medical attention, and it is all received by them absolutely free of charge. This line shows the police department and the fire department, both of which I have the honor to control. The chief of the fire department at Harrison’s is a staff officer of the company, lie is present at all conferences which are held in the company No new buildings, nor any additions to old buildings, can be built in that plant until they receive the O. K. of the chief of the fire department. The president of Harrison’s himself does not give his O. K. to a building or to an improvement unless he has consulted the chief of the fire department. Sometimes of course the architect—and you heard about them yesterday, our chiefs of construction, or our mechanical engineers, are a little chary at what we put on them to prevent them from building things, and, too, in the building line they have their hobbies, so sometimes they combat you, and then we have what we call a fire commission, of which the president of the company is the chairman. It is composed of the president, the fire chiefs, the mechanical engineer and the superintendent of production. Then we meet together and discuss this question and we always agree. But that is the court of last resort, and the chief of the fire department has just as much say in that fire commission as anybody else, and his recommendations are generally taken. I will tell you another thing that I do and which I have found very valuable. It is this: Of course we have to carry large insurance, and when I want to make, my point doubly strong, I send for our insurance brokers and I go thoroughly over the risks to surrounding buildings from a fire standpoint in case the proposed buildings were put tip, or the proposed additions made to the old buildings. As an illustration I have here a memorandum inquiry along this line: “8-2415. Mr. Tilden, will you allow us to use rubberoid roofing on No. 66,” and so forth. “This is far removed from all buildings.” And that received my O. K. and goes back to the chief of construction and he puts on the roof. I put my O. K. on it for a rubberoid roof because it is a temporary building. You will see on the blueprint, our plant. It is divided into seven fire inspection districts. These lines are not even, and this is caused by reason of the fact that these buildings are all the way from one to six stories in height, and it is divided up into districts according to the work to be done, the larger districts having the smaller buildings and of less importance, and the central and smaller districts having the higher buildings and of more importance. Every month the assistant to the division chief of each department makes an inspection of his district and sends a report of that inspection in to the chief of the fire department for our use and information. These inspectors go through the buildings and examine the shutters. the fire appliances in the buildings, such as fire pails and everything else. When the report is received, the chief of the fire department sends out a bulletin to the various places where bad housekeeping has been found, and somtimes there is a good deal of it, of course. We also have inspections by the Independence Inspection Bureau, then we send out bulletins like the following: “Bulletin No. 69. As a result of the last inspection, the Independence Inspection Bureau recommends as follows: Building No. 1, basement. At northeast corner fire pails were found almost empty. These pails should be refilled.” There is a memorandum on this notice or bulletin to the effect that the reason the pails had become almost empty was because outsiders had been using water out of them. One of the things that we thought was necessary was to keep strangers imbued with the careful idea; our men, of course, get the idea of being careful, it becomes their second nature, but we realize that strangers coming into the plant, the subcontractors, and persons of that kind and their workmen might not know just what our rules are. So, in order to prevent carelessness and danger therefrom from outsiders, and inasmuch as we have eighty odd fire hydrants in the plant and found that subcontractors would be liable to come in and dump a load of lumber or something of the kind in front of a hydrant, that is, we have eighty hydrants of our own, and forty of the city’s besides—we issue passes for people coming into the plant, allowing them to come to certain places, and we safeguard the dangerous localities from a fire standpoint, or localities more dangerous than others, by issuing different colored badges, so that men holding other than these passes would not get into those zones. The pass requires that the man receiving same must return it to the gatehouse. We have twelve gates in the factory, leading from various portions thereof to the outside and vice versa, and each of these gates of course must be locked. On the inside of the gate is a box, the same as you see on the street, fire boxes to hold keys. Fire engines coming in from the street come into those gates, and are led in by red flags in the day and red lanterns at night, and the city fire department looks for the lamps and has no trouble. Of course, in the daytime it has no trouble, but it might have trouble at night without guidance. We have a system of telephones that we ring in every hour, the same as you have on the police force, both day and night. Irrespective of these precautions, of course, we have fires. We had a big one on the 8th of July, burning out a building 155 by 60 feet. Such a building in the street would be a good size building, but in our own plant it didn’t show up so much in the matter of building. This fire was in a building close to other buildings, and I want to say that the Philadelphia fire department did most wonderful work in holding that fire out of these zones. Here is a little thing that occurs, and I want to show you how careful we try to be. We have a log book which the captain of the night watch keeps, which shows where the twenty-four watchmen are, and what occurs during the night. Here is a quotation from one of his reports: “Watchbox stationed in mill room of No. 62 building, on second, floor, could not be approached owing to a number of heavy barrels being piled up in front of mill room on second floor, on account of which station was not rung by watchman on No. 1 and No. 3 routes.” From this you will see that the merest incident is reported; and if the system works properly, and we always hope it does, the merest incident is reported back to the central office so that we will always know what is going on. Our mode of transmitting alarms probably may seem a little bit crude to you. It is based on the idea of the old steam fire engine. We have a great deal of trouble with acid fumes corroding the insides of metal boxes, therefore we resorted to the rather old system, which has worked very well. I might explain, however, that we are working with one of the box people to-day to see if, under a guarantee, they can put in boxes which will stand this corrosion. We have two systems, one by word of mouth, and the other by telephone, one man from the building in which the fire may occur calls “Fire” over the ’phone, giving the number of the building, and our central telephone office throws the fire switch, which blows a siren horn, and rings a 12-inch gong, which we have in the fire house. Then our engineer jumps to the fire whistle and blows it, and at the same time throws off the hook that calls the nearest fire company. At the same time the above is taking place another man is running to the fire house to give the alarm. In Philadelphia they work under the local or still alarm system, and while there were something like 4,000 fires in 1914. only about a thousand were box alarms. Every morning at nine o’clock we test in a private wire which we have to the nearest engine company, and they answer, but if this phone rings again any time during the day or night they never stop to answer it but come to our plant, which they reach in about two minutes. We keep a tab on that, keeping such memorandum as this: “No answer this a. m. on the direct line to Engine Company 47. It may be that they were out to a fire at the time, but at any rate, we received no answer.” Of course, we have all the appliances that the Underwriters ask us to have. In some buildings where corrosion is not great we have sprinklers, and in others we cannot have them. We have all the fire pails we can get in, plus types of extinguishers, and with these we can extinguish small incipient fires. We require the space around fire pails to be kept clear, as per these charts which I show you. These things are pretty well covered by our system of inspection which goes on each month. We have a modest little fire department consisting of two fifty-gallon extinguishers, two reels with the necessary 2 1/2-inch rubber hose; we have to use rubber hose on account of the acid fumes affecting the fabric of hose of the other kind. Then we have a village truck and we have another wagon carrying spare hose. We have, at various parts of the plant, these approved Underwriters’ boxes, which contain hydrants with 150 to 200 feet of hose, fire axes and hooks and other necessary tools, which are on the shelves and which you can use when the boxes are opened. In addition to that, we have a high pressure system with five miles of high pressure mains. We have three engines. The pump house is removed from all other buildings, so that it will be reasonably safe in case of a conflagration in the plant, and drawing water from the Schuylkill river with a 14-inch suction pipe. In addition to that we are putting in two turbine engines with the latest improved fire pumps, which will be used entirely and the old plants kept as a reserve. Gentlemen of the Convention, if you are at any time in Philadelphia I will be very glad to have you visit our plant and see what we are trying to do. But I want to impress upon every one that my views from a general fire standpoint, rather than my connection with Harrison’s, is the wish that everybody could be fully imbued with the thought that prevails at Harrison’s, to prevent fire as far as possible, and to extinguish it when it occurs. In conclusion I wish to say that I have no trouble from the heads of the plant at all on the question of fire prevention, and was, in fact, forced by my president to attend this convention although I was very busy and did not feel that I could hardly spare the time, but I was practically driven by my president to come here and be present with you men, and you can see that we want to do everything that we can to help you and help the departments of the country and of the world to save this tremendous fire waste, and to learn all that we can from you.

*Chief, Division of Fire, Harrison Brothers & Co., Philadelphia, Pa. Paper read at Convention of International Association of Fire Engineers, Cincinnati, O., Aug. 31-Sept. 3, 1915.