Navy Practices Standardization as Safety-Economy Measure
It is no secret that the Navy (as well as the rest of the Armed Forces) is practicing economy. Nor is it any secret that naval installations, ashore and afloat in this country alone, run to staggering figures.
Protecting these installations from fire is a man’s size job, even with fat fire protection budgets. But when efficiency and economy must go hand in hand, those charged with fire protection at the nation’s fabulous naval bases and installations have their work cut out for them.
One of the most outstanding of these insallations is in San Diego—part of the Eleventh Naval District which includes Southern California. This is not the story of the district’s fire protection forces, but rather of one vital factor which concerns those forces, and their cooperative arrangement with the metropolitan San Diego Fire Department headed by Chief George Courser. That fundamental is the matter of standardization of fire hydrant threads.
The editors of FIRE ENGINEERING are grateful to Kalph C. MacDonald, Captain CEC, USN, acting district public works officer, and D. W. Jacobson, district fire protection engineer, Eleventh Naval District, for the data upon which this report is based. Also, to Chief Courser and Battalion Chief Robert Ely, master mechanic of the San Diego Fire Department, for their assistance and cooperation. Chief Ely is considered the nation’s foremost authority on hose threads and thread standardization.
THE ELEVENTH NAVAL DISTRICT, with some 75 shore activities in the Southern California area, faced the tremendous task of gauging and standardizing approximately 3,500 fire hydrants and about 400 fire department fittings having 4-inch threads.
By joining the State of California and City of San Diego in the purchase of standardization tools, the unit tool cost to all participants in the program was appreciably reduced. After delivery, the Navy’s took were preserved for future use by thorough greasing and construction of individual wooden cases to contain the several large sized taps, dies, and other equipment.
It was originally planned to coordinate this program with standardization being carried out by the various municipalities, but the complexities of working out contract arrangements, travel by station labor, liaison with all municipalities, etc., were so great that it was finally decided to undertake the entire project when the city standardization was nearing completion.
A survey was conducted throughout die district in the latter part of 1953 to obtain an estimate of the number of hydrants requiring alteration. Of approximately 3,500 hydrants involved, it was found that at least 1,400 would require machining. This estimate was obtained by sending a simplified stainless steel ring-gauge to each fire chief, together with necessary forms and instructions for gauging the outlets. A study of the results proved to be quite interesting. While the hydrants of some manufacturers were found to be almost entirely outside the standard tolerances, it was found that a few manufacturers had adhered very closely to the Navy standard (similar to California standard) established during World War II.
Need for uniformity
At the start of the state’s program, the Eleventh Naval District recognized a need for uniformity under National Civil Defense standards to permit effective mutual aid agreements among municipal and Navy fire departments. The program, so far as the Navy was concerned, was coordinated by D. W. Jacobson, district fire protection engineer, who worked in cooperation with the State of California and City of San Diego. This, incidentally, amounted to more than just official exchanges of information. Early in the program it was found that special alloys and treated steels would be needed for the fabrication of gauges and several other items of equipment. These special metals were readily available through the Navy, and were furnished to the City of San Diego for fabrication in the fire department shops. In return, precision gauges, plus a cutter for removing the feather edge of threads, were loaned to the Navy. Altogether, the program is progressing very satisfactorily, and machining operations have already been completed at a major shore activity with a minimum of breakage, indicating that it is economically feasible to machine these fittings in the field rather than to purchase replacements.
A point of interest will be found in the method of accomplishment selected by the Navy. As is usually the case, when a given type of work is to be accomplished at a number of government facilities, a considerable amount of thought was given to the possibilities of negotiating a contract with a qualified machine shop to send a team of experienced machinists to all facilities. Several technical and legal irregularities were found in this method, however, so it was decided to recruit two qualified machinists (willing to travel) from among civilian employees of the Navy in the San Diego area. A system was therefore worked out whereby each naval facility would submit an engineering service request and a request for performance of work to the U. S. Naval Station Public Works Department, and each job is being scheduled on the list of activ ities requiring the necessary alterations. This system is found to Ire far more efficient than any others considered, as the work is being accomplished by a single team of experienced machinists throughout the district. These men, already experienced specialists in their field, are acquiring greater speed and efficiency as the job progresses and “short cuts are uncovered.
In summary, it can easily be stated that, when completed, this project will permit complete interchangeability of municipal and Navy fire apparatus in the Civil Defense program.