Jamestown Trains Watchmen in Industrial Plant Protection

Jamestown Trains Watchmen in Industrial Plant Protection

Recently the Jamestown Fire Department, Chief Rudolph Swanson, former president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, conducted one of its most successful industrial factory fire protection programs. In this it had the cooperation of William Joyce, secretary Jamestown Manufacturers Association and William Broadhead, Program Chairman of the Jamestown Safety Council. As a result, fire department inspection teams were able to make 40 calls at 23 industrial plants and visit with 90 night watchman, as well as talk with 200 factory foremen, safety directors and superintendents.

Night watchman have had the attention of Jamestown fire officials for some years; they have been called together as a group and attended a “school.” This promotion seemed successful on the surface, but it remained for a serious fire in one of the city’s furniture factories to show that all watchmen were not being reached. A more thorough method of educating and training watchmen had to be found. After some consideration it was decided the best way to reach them all was to make personal contact with the men while they were on duty.

All manufacturers were notified by Mr. Joyce of the proposed plan and were asked to call the fire department if they care for a night watchman inspection team to call. The management set the date and time. The inspections were to start anytime between the hours of 6:30 P. M. and 12:00 midnight.

When the date was set, a two man inspection team was assigned to call. The team comprised one man from each of the two companies most likely to be first on the scene. These men were carefully selected and well schooled in the subjects and procedures to be followed, most important of which included: What to do in case of an emergency: use of different kinds of extinguishers; types of sprinkler systems; where the sprinkler shut-off and drain valves are located; location of nearest fire alarm box; how to send in a fire alarm; location of potential fire hazards, and safety precautions to be taken in time of emergency.

The first problem encountered by the inspection teams was the night watchman himself. He had to be put at his ease, and made to understand the firemen were there to help him and not to find fault with him. A watchman, for some unknown reason, according to Chief Swanson, hates to, or is afraid to, call the fire department unless it is absolutely necessary. It was essential to rid his mind of this feeling, to point out to him that the running of water or sound of the sprinkler bell or smell of smoke or pronounced crackling noise is an emergency, and the fire department should be called. It is his duty to himself, his employer, and other workers, to act immediately. A delayed call may jeopardize his life as well as his fellow workers’ jobs.

After a brief talk to set the watchman at ease, the team requested the watchman to make the rounds of the plant as he always does, and let them tag along. As this tour is conducted, they point out the different potential hazards which the watchman should consider carefully. The different fire extinguishers are reviewed as they come to them. Sprinkler systems are inspected and discussed, the watchman being warned that he should never turn a sorinkler system off until ordered to do so by an official of the fire department. The fire department’s method of stopping the flow of water and the reason for not shutting off the entire system also are explained.

Time spent in reviewing and discussing matters of interest was of no immediate concern to the team. Many visits took from two to four hours, depending upon how well versed the watchman was on fire protection.

Following the inspection, the team discussed the method of transmitting alarms and what should be done. The nearest alarm box was visited and the watchman given opportunity to operate it. Then the employee was told how the fire alarm dispatcher works. In short, he got a broad explanation of the whole fire department layout. The result was a better understanding of mutual problems. The night watchman realized he would not be criticized for turning in what is listed as a “precautionary call.” The fire fighters know they have a man who will not let an emergency get out of hand before they are called.

The inspectors cleared up many other points for the watchman concerning actual workings of sprinkler systems; how and why they should be checked each night to see if valves are turned on; the fallacy of turning them off before the department is called; the need of knowing what parts of the factory each system protected; what parts have manually operated systems; the value of fire doors, and use of tarpaulins and sprinkler wedges—all these and more were covered in addition to the question of different types of alarm systems, and methods of transmitting alarms.

The second part of the program included plant foremen and was conducted at a regular meeting of the Jamestown Safety Council. The findings of the inspection teams were here gone over and many recommendations made: such points as proper identification of sprinkler systems; better alarm systems; better distribution of new type extinguishers ; tarpaulins to be made a standard piece of fire equipment in plants, and sprinkler wedges placed about with the extinguishers. One manufacturer went so far as to install step ladders on each floor along with the wedges.

Later it is expected to have an inspection team visit each new watchman as he is hired. In Jamestown, it looks like the “inspection team” for night watchman enlightenment and education is going to be standard procedure. Through it, the Jamestown Fire Department hones to remove many definite industrial hazards, with benefit to all concerned.

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