Plant Relocation Needs Careful Study
Industrial Fire Safety
This story is not an unusual one today and it goes something like this. An industrial company looking to new markets, lower taxes, good transportation, decides to make the momentous transition from the crowded city to the suburban or rural industrial park or single site.
When this happens, the company, local chamber of commerce, state board and the private and public relations minded folks do a tremendous job in extolling the virtues of such an industry and its move to their rural area. But nobody thinks of the problems engendered if rural site selection is not based on a careful investigation.
Problems: For the manufacturers, there must be sufficient labor force to produce a product, and to provide fire protection—often the only fire protection. To properly protect an industrial plant, regardless of construction, location or automatic fire protection systems or fire department available, employees are vital. Employees must be formed and trained into a simple, practical, workable fire brigade or emergency force, especially in rural areas or suburban locations. Survival in a fire or other emergency situation is a matter of understanding and cooperation between the parties involved. Therefore, employees must be of the type to do both an acceptable job of production and be responsible enough to realize the necessity of protecting their company and their jobs.
Lower taxes gained by relocation are often offset by higher costs in other areas such as private water supplies and fire department fees.
Fire insurance costs can be high in rural areas because of the poor classification given by the rating bureau.
Electric alarm services are most costly in rural areas and small communities. Wiring must be strung sometimes to police stations, sheriffs’ offices, fire departments and even private homes, or all four in some cases, to obtain service that has value. Water supplies for fire use are a problem of major importance. Many cities have outgrown their water supplies and do little to improve them because of the cost. In rural areas this matter of adequate water supplies becomes a greater problem when industry moves in. They are just not geared for the large flow that may be required at the new plant.
Mains are small, pumps inadequate, with wells pulling from greater depths due to a nationwide lowering of the water table. Even if reservoirs and rivers are involved, inadequacy still exists by reason of main and pump capacities.
Advertising brochures for industrial parts or rural areas always state: “Water available.” This water availability statement must be looked into by any company contemplating a relocation. A very careful investigation must be made by the corporation, its insurance representative, insurance company, own fire engineering staff or consulting firm to ascertain if water is available for all remands. If the supply is poor, then the feasibility of the move to the country becomes less attractive and other locations must be investigated with, of course, costs growing by leaps and bounds. As an example, just to provide a 200,000-gallon ground tank, automatic 1,000-gpin pump and attachments, an expense of some $65,000 is necessary, plus perpetual maintenance.
Services available: What type of local fire and police service is available? The lack of full-time, around-the-clock, paid police protection could mean the hiring of extra private guards, another expense.
Is the fire service paid, part-paid or volunteer? If paid, insurance rates are possibly low; if volunteer, rates are normally higher. If, of course, the county fire district—miles away—must provide coverage, then insurance costs will be the highest. In some cases the county cannot respond and fees must be paid to the nearest paid department for call response. Here is an additional expense to think about and take into consideration in the selection of a plant site. In all fairness to rural fire departments, they have a problem since funds by taxation or by contribution are hard to come by. They are not equipped to meet the problems that a sudden influx of industries can bring to a once peaceful rural area.
Recommendations: A company planning relocation should investigate fully every proposed site. Nothing should be taken for granted. This investigation should be conducted by a team consisting of construction engineer, fire protection engineer, real estate representative, insurance department and the like.
There should be a check sheet covering the points discussed here, plus all the other items necessary in arriving at a good, all-around site choice.
Special attention must be given to the adequacy of water supplies at present and for the future.
The fire department’s availability and capability must be thoroughly investigated.