Laboratory Methods in the Fight Against Fire

Laboratory Methods in the Fight Against Fire

In the final analysis human progress is but little more than the development and application of correct ideas. Thus the history of mankind may be said to be the story of the succession of prevailing ideas, each set on the throne of the times over which it happened to be the ruler. Before an audience so well informed in matters pertaining to fire protection as this one, about the only reasonable excuse that one can have for attempting to speak on the subject is the desire to discuss some phase of it with which he has had unusual opportunities to acquaint himself. I shall therefore confine my remarks to the work of Underwriters’ Laboratories, this being the fire protection work that I know most about. As many of you know, Underwriters’ Laboratories work is carried on under the general direction of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, and in co-operation with the Workmen’s Compensation Service Bureau. It is undertaken as one means of reducing the enormous and disproportionate fire waste and of keeping the number of accidents as small as possible. It is the aim of the Laboratories to secure and make available the best and fairest opinion regarding the merits of every appliance, material and product in respect to the fire and accident hazards. They are sometimes referred to as the Chicago Laboratories. But they are much more than a local organization-more than national, in fact there are branch offices in the principal cities and towns of the United States and Canada, and in London, England. The main offices and principal testing stations arc located in Chicago. Thus Underwriters’ Laboratories, Inc., is an organization with its headquarters in Chicago, while Underwriters’ Laboratories’ work is a system of safety engineering of more than national scope. Moving pictures of some of this work have recently been provided. These will be shown here. The film that we are using is all of the standard slow-burning type. Fire department officials are familiar with the fire hazard of moving pictures; most of us know that a moving picture fire is quite liable to be a very disastrous sort of occurrence. In most cities this hazard is being safeguarded so far as relates to show houses, by the licensipg of operators and by frequent and exacting inspection of the moving-picture theatre. But this does not take care of the rapidly growing use of picture film in private entertainments and in advertising and publicity campaigns. The pictures take the observer through parts of the Chicago plant and show him a great variety of fire protection engineering and testing going on. They include a front view of the main building, which is about .700 feet long, and which has a floor space of approximately 50,000 square feet. Going inside the building, the observer is first carried through the chemical and physical laboratories, where engineers are seen busy making chemical analyses and physical tests on fire hose linings, electric wire insulating materials, friction matches, hazardous liquids, etc. He is then shown through portions of the electrical department; here are witnessed tests on electric heating devices, wiring materials, fuses, switches and sockets and many other electrical products. Following these there are tests on fire doors, wired glass windows, hand fire extinguishers, hose racks, automatic sprinkler equipment, etc. When samples of the product of a manufacturer have been tested and a favorable report from the engineers who conducted the tests has received the endorsement of the Laboratories’ Councils, the product is listed as standard, and a follow-up system is undertaken, the aim being to keep the Laboratories supplied with comprehensive data as to the quality of the factory output and with information concerning the behavior of the product under conditions of actual service. For this follow-up the label service is found to be admirably suited. In conclusion, I want to sav that the evidences of the spirit of co-operation which one may usually see at fire protection meetings is to me a most pleasing thing. Fire protection has become a national affair. A thing may be nation-wide without being national. Tt is national when there prevails the spirit of united endeavor and co-operative effort in one common direction without lost motion or unnecessary, wasteful duplication of activities.

Abstract of paper, illustrated with moving pictures, read at Convention of Internationa] Association of Fire Engineers, Cincinnati, O., Aug. 31-Sept. 3, 1915.

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