Flammable Liquids—Their Protection
Problems Involved in Regulating the Handling. Sale and Storage of Such Dangerous Materials — Suggestions as to Ordinance for Purpose
THE use of all varieties of flammable liquids is increasing as time goes on, and the menace from careless or ignorant use of these dangerous but invaluable substances is consequently becoming a greater and greater problem for the Chief. The following suggestions will be found both timely and interesting:
In his book “Fires and Fire Fighters” published in 1913 Chief John Kenlon of New York wrote as follows:
“The advent of the motor car has not proved an unmixed blessing to the fire fighter and it is no exaggeration to say that the general adoption of motor traction has enormously increased the fire risk. Gasoline is an extremely dangerous liquid to handle, though that familiarity which breeds contempt has robbed it of its sinister significance.
“Of all careless persons, chauffeurs and garage employees may justly claim pre-eminence. In spite of printed regulations and orders prominently displayed they will smoke at every possible opportunity absolutely heedless of the fact that they would be just as well advised to smoke in a powder mill.
“And the owners are not much better. Unless compelled by municipal ordinances, they are sublimely indifferent to effective fire protection in their garages both relative to storage of flammable liquids and relative to structural factors.”
The book goes on to speak of the use of flammable liquids in dry cleaning and other industrial processes and at the end of the chapter sums it all up in two brief sentences:
“It is an interesting commentary on the philosophy of life that those elements which are of the greatest general use to society are nearly always fraught with an irreducible minimum of risk, if applied without caution. Gasoline and other volatile flammable liquids have been termed “unseen enemies”, but like many other potential adversaries, careful handling may transform them into useful servants and trusty friends.”
These remarks are probably just as true now as they were in 1913 and the use of flammable liquids. not only gasoline, but other liquids used in industrial processes has increased by leaps and bounds. It is easy then to see that the interests of public safety call for a decidedly definite knowledge of the properties of these liquids, and proper and adequate ordinances and regulations for their storage and use.
Suggested Model Ordinance Regulating Use
To meet these conditions there has been developed by the National Fire Protection Association Committee on Flammable Liquids a suggested model ordinance regulating the use, handling, storage and sale of flammable liquids and products thereof. This ordinance was first published in 1913, but has twice been revised to keep it in accord with new developments and modern practice. We believe that the provisions of the ordinance represent the best thoughts available on the subject and it proposes to give you the necessary authority to control the hazards of all flammable liquids—not just one.
Before I go into a discussion of the details of the ordinance itself, let me just explain in a brief way the make-up of the technical committee which has been responsible for its development. 1 he chairman is H. L. Miner. Manager, Safety and Fire Protection Division of the du Pont Company in Wilmington, Del., and the personnel of the committee is made up of representatives of oil refining industries, petroleum and oil burner associations, Bureau of Explosives, U. S. Bureau of Mines, Underwriters’ Laboratories and fire insurance engineers.
Gasoline, Naphtha, Benzol and Similar Liquids
The first chapter of the model ordinance is, for the most part, given over to definitions. Mammablc liquids have been divided into three classes according to flash point—those with a flash point below 25° Fahrenheit, those with a flash point between 25 and 70‘, and those with a flash point of over 70° and up to 190°. The flash point of a liquid is the lowest temperature at which it will give off ignitible vapors and for the purposes of concentrating enforcement on the more dangerous liquids we may, I think, for the purposes of this discussion consider Class I and II liquids together, thus considering those liquids having a flash point of less than 70° as highly flammable. This does not infer that liquids having a higher flash point will not burn, or that they will not give off ignitible vapors, nor does it mean that there is no danger involved in handling them. What it does mean is that Class 1 and Jl include the principal trouble-makers and those liquids which will flash at ordinary room temperatures or lower.
TT is easy to see that the interests of public safety call for a decidely definite X knowledge of the properties of these liquids and proper and adequate ordinances and regulations for their storage and use.”
Liquids included in Class 1 and 11 are gasoline, naphtha, benzol, acetone, ether, alcohol and other liquids of similar characteristics. Kerosene, turpentine, and fuel oil are typical examples of Class 111. The hazards attendant upon all burnable liquids vary in degree rather than in kind and those hazards belonging to gasoline, the worst offender of all, are in a greater or less degree applicable to any flammable liquid in inverse ratio to the flash point of the liquid. Naturally it follows that the lower the flash point, the greater the hazard.
General Requirements for Storage, Use and Handling
Chapter two of the model ordinance covers general requirements for the storage, use and handling of flammable liquids which are applicable to the regulation of the storage of petroleum products, the manufacture and storage of paint and varnish, garages, filling stations and dry cleaning establishments.
This chapter contains provisions prohibiting storage and handling in buildings where safety to life would be jeopardzed. It provides for proper construction of storage rooms and for adequate ventilation. It requires fire appliances and prohibits smoking and the use of open lights.
In connection with the prohibition of smoking in buildings where flammable liquids are present it is interesting to note that of 1,911 garage fires occurring in Massachusetts from 1919 to 1927, 318 or 16.6% were caused by careless smoking or careless use of matches.
Regulation of Storage Tanks
The third section embraces the regulation of storage tanks—their capacity, location and restriction to certain areas or districts. This subject has long been controversial in some of its details, but the provisions of this chapter as appearing in the present edition of the model ordinance are reasonably acceptable to the petroleum industry and any company would have no real reason to object to the enactment of such an ordinance.
To briefly indicate the trend in the practical application of these provisions let me cite several examples. The Richmond, Va., fire prevention code is slightly more restrictive on its limitations for underground storage, less restrictive in regard to the minimum distance of outside above-ground tanks to line of adjoining property which may he built upon, and in reference to minimum distances between above-ground tanks it agrees with the model ordinance. In the Wilmington, Del., code the requirements as to above-ground tanks are considerably more restrictive than the N. F. P. A. ordinance, while requirements for underground tanks are slightly more liberal. The rules and regulations of the State of Illinois are far more stringent as to minimum requirements for distances of aboveground tanks to property lines and are in agreement with the N. F. P. A. ordinance as to distances between tanks and in the case of underground tanks. Similarly Detroit. Pittsburgh and Duluth follow the model either exactly or with slight variations.
Prohibition of Drain Connections—Proper Venting
Chapter four covers the prohibition of drain connections, eliminating the danger of sewer explosions, provides for proper and adequate venting of tanks for the removal of flammable vapors, and indicates essential requirements for valves, piping and pumping or other equipment for drawing-off liquids for use. The various sections of the chapter cover in detail the requiremetns and due to their technical nature it does not seem pertinent to discuss them in detail at this time.
Chapter five particularly covers the hazards of petroleum, both in refineries and in distributing stations, not covered in Chapters two, three and four of the ordinance. References are made in this chapter to sections of previous chapters which are to he applied in establishments handling petroleum
Construction and Operation of Tank Trucks
Under this chapter heading reference is made to tank trucks and I would like at this point to call your attention to recommended good practice for the construction and operation of gasoline tank trucks which was adopted at the May meeting of the N. F. P. A. in Memphis. The adoption of the regulations should be a factor in safeguarding the hazard involved in the transportation through our streets.
This point seems an appropriate place to digress for a moment and make a brief suggestion relative to the transportation of gasoline and other flamtriable liquids through the congested areas of cities and towns even though it may not be within the scope of this ordinance. This is a problem with which every fire chief is being confronted and I believe it can be solved by conference with the officials of oil distributing stations. The petroleum industry are no more desirous of accidents such as have recently occurred in Pittsburgh and Boston than are the fire chiefs and I am sure they will be willing to consider routing trucks away from congested areas where possible.
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Flammable Liquids—Their Protection
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Now to get back to our subject. The regulations governing filling stations are at present included in an appendix. This is due to the fact that they have been only tentatively adopted by the Association as a whole and are subject to possible changes. They will eventually be incorporated as part of chapter five and as such cover the hazards incidental to filling stations not covered by sections on storage and handling.
Specific Conditions Relative to Paints and Varnishes
Chapter six is intended to cover those specific conditions relative to paints and varnishes not covered by general provisions of other chapters and proper reference is made in the sections of this chapter to other sections. Chapter seven provides for penalties for violations and for the proper legal adoption.
Ordinance May be Adopted in Full or in Part
As I previously remarked, it is the purpose of this ordinance to give the necessary authority to control the hazard of all flammable liquids. It may be adopted in full or in part, being workable from a practical standpoint in its entirety as it is, or forming a guide in framing a local ordinance. Sections of it may also be incorporated in other ordinances relative to garages, dry cleaning establishments, paint shops, etc.
That this ordinance is practical is demonstrated by the fact that its provisions, in full or in part, have been adopted by the following cities in the past few years. This is not a complete list by any means, but rather a representative group.
Hoboken, N. J. Richmond, Va. Wilmington Del. Pittsburgh, Pa.
Detroit, Mich. Duluth, Minn. State of Illinois State of Indiana
(From a paper read before the annual convention of the Annual New England Association of Fire Chiefs.)
Souderton, Pa., Houses New Apparatus—A 600-gallon Seagrave pumper and a 500-gallon Hale pumper w’ere placed in service in Souderton, Pa., with an official ceremony. The carnival was held in the evening.
Ridgeley, Md., Erects New Fire House—A two-story fire station is being erected in Ridgely, Md. It will have an auditorium, and a kitchen. It is to be completed by December 1.