HAZARDS AND EXPOSURES
In treating of this subject, forming part of the University of Illinois Course in Fire Prevention. the author speaks from expert knowledge, and his ideas will be found of great value.
The first subject is exposure. All exposures are hazards. The burning risk becomes a hazard to the neighboring risk, so we classify exposures as hazards. Exposure is probably neglected by property owners more than any one thing. How often we see very fine buildings put up right against a fire trap or no provision provided to prevent a fire trap going up. We are up against that in factory work a lot. The poor section of a location for any property often nullifies any other good feature one may have. You might spend a lot of money on a fire-proof building, but it can be readily burned out by a bad neighbor. The Burlington building in Chicago was a most excellent fire-proof building, but it was in poor company and when the poor company got to acting badly the fire went through the building, although it represented the best modern engineering. We paid a 60 per cent loss on that building alone.
At Evansville, Ind., a strictly fire-proof building burned. This was not an exposure fire, but it showns how a fire-proof building can be damaged. Reinforced columns were destroyed that were twelve or fifteen inches thick.
Best Built Building No Better than Its Neighbor
It doesn’t matter how good a building is, if in a bad neighborhood ; it is no better than its neighbor. A property owner might spend a great deal of money for fire protection such as sprinklers, fire walls, fire pumps, standpipes, hose and all that, yet, if he had a very bad neighbor, these benefits would all be nullified. A good example of that is the two or three million dollar Naumkeag Cotton Mill fire at Salem, Mass. That mill had several acres of land available when young, but the mill grew and the town grew and the factory help had to live somewhere, so three flat houses were built up to the fences of the mill. The mill people had not bought acreage enough to keep those tenements away, so, when the city of Salem burned, the mill went with it, although there was not a better protected mill in the United States. Everything known was provided to protect the mill, but the fire was too hot and when the tenements burned fire went through the mill and drank up readily all the water applied to stop it. So excellent protection and excellent construction may be absolutely of no use if there is a bad neighbor.
Importance of Exposure in Fire Protection
Architects and others advising people about building a house, store or anything else should bear that thing in mind. Nowadays most of our fire prevention work is confined to keeping up production; keeping the store or factory running. It costs much money when a fire stops production, so fire prevention must be considered from a continuity of business viewpoint. Insurance does not pay for the stopping of business, so exposures may involve serious expenses, adding a cost to the investment which should not be there. Blank walls cost money, will cut out light and handicap the fire chief if you have a fire of your own, yet they are often required to protect against a had exposure. With an isolated property this expense would not be a factor.
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Course in Fire Protection
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Then we protect window openings with approved fire windows and we protect windows and wooden walls with ojien sprinklers, which protection saves many buildings. But all these things for protection against exposure are more or less ineffective. Some are only of use in getting the insurance rate. When the property bums it goes just the same and the protection costs the owner money for which he gets little return. He had better go outside the town and get plenty of land to have room enough. Of course a direct charge for the exposure comes in in the insurance cost. There must be a rate for that exposure, otherwise we would be unfair to the property which had no exposure. The state laws will not let us charge one man the same as another when the hazard is different.
The Factor of Restrictions
Owners and architects could well pay more attention in the cities also to the matter of restriction. Unfortunately in this free country we can build a fire-proof $50,000 house and a man may build a lumber yard or a saw mill ten feet away. We do not have any way of stopping that evil unless there are restrictions in the city code and that is becoming more and more a factor of importance.
Probable the city of Detroit has been one of the notoriously bad examples, with beautiful boulevards and no restrictions, so the boulevards contain $50,000 dwellings and factories and stores, all mixed up. Building was not regulated originally, although I think it is now.
In selecting sites and putting up property it is advisable to get in a restricted location, if one can. The building codes of the towns and cities directly affect this matter of exposure and can safeguard property owmers a good deal if properly enforced, but even a vigilance committee or chamber of commerce or the Kiwanis or other organizations in the town, by moral persuasion, can do a good deal with the building conditions where the town is smaller.
Then, of course, the locations which have notoriously bad reputations are another factor in the exposure. Some parts of your town, as your fire chiefs know, call you out much oftener than other parts of the town. Property owners very often buy a piece of land because it is cheap and put up a valuable piece of property in such a location without taking account of the fact that their building may be destroyed by its neighbors.
1 have seen good prosperous industries absolutely destroyed by fire. Although we paid the fire insurance, before they could get going again some competitor bad their business, so continuity of production is very important for any industry.
Necessity of Ample Sized Water Mains
Another thing we find often is that valuable property will be put where there are no water mains. The owmer might think and it might be perfectly true that there is a very good fire department in town. Perhaps the water company or the town has not spent money on the water mains, and some fire plugs are rented for $50 a year to the town but are located only on a three or four inch main. The fire chief is helpless for lack of water and gets criticized for not putting the fire out. There is nothing like good cold water to put out a fire, but you cannot do it with two, three and four inch mains, as found in many towns.
Then of course the danger of exposure is also modified a good deal by the quality of the police and fire departments and such things should receive attention of owners building property.
Don’t Locate in High Insurance District
Then the last item is that there are certain districts in certain towns which carry a higher insurance charge than other parts of the town. The property owner should consider that in putting up property because such a rate will be a perpetual charge upon him. Take the lumber district in Memphis, Tennessee, for example,—a couple of miles of lumber yards and saw mills. Insurance men simply have to consider that district mostly as one fire from one to two miles long. Had these plants been separated a bit they would enjoy quite a little less insurance cost. All such things add to the items of expense and are factors when considering exposure.
I recall a good sprinkled candy factory built in a certain town. The owner did not buy a large lot and five feet distant was a four story manufacturing building which helped to keep the fire department exercised. I think they were called down there for a fire on an average once a month. So the owner of the candy factory got practically no benefit from his nice building because of the bad neighbor. He was unfortunate in selecting the location.
(To be continued)