Plastic Sheeting for Salvage, Easily Applied, Has Many Uses
Statistics show that too many injuries occur during overhauling after a fire and a part of this evolution is the covering of openings with tar paper held in place by laths and nails. A man climbing a ladder with tar paper under one arm and carrying laths, nails and a hammer seems to be an accident looking for a place to happen.
Recognizing the accident potential of such situations, our department set out to find a better way. This greater safety impetus, coupled with new home construction methods and materials, produced a modern approach to salvage operations.
Four and 6-mil plastic sheeting, available in convenient rolls, forms the nucleus of the new approach. The management of the Bostitch Division of Textron, made aware of our attempt to find the better way, donated Bostitch T-5 Tacker staple guns to our department. This was arranged by Douglas Barber, who doubles as safety engineer for Bostitch and chief of the Bradford Volunteer Fire Company. Boxes constructed by Warwick fire fighters hold all the necessary tools and equipment to perform covering operations safely and efficiently.
The kit for covering windows and ventilation holes in roofs contains 4-mil plastic, 4 feet wide, in rolls 100 feet long. The tool inventory includes the T-5 Tacker, a knife with disposable blades, extra staples and an apron to carry the tools. The plastic is available 4 feet wide, folded in half, which reduces the size of the carrying case so that it can be carried on engines as well as ladder trucks.
Ventilation holes in roofs can be easily covered by setting the kit above the hole, pulling the plastic sheeting down over the hole and securing it with staples every 3 to 5 inches. A more secure patch can be made by folding the edges over before stapling. Experience has shown that this covering can withstand a moderate snow cover for weeks.
Covering windows is just as easy as roofs and markedly safer than the old tar paper and lath method. First-floor windows can be covered by placing the kit on the ground and pulling the plastic up over the window. Second floor and higher are covered easier by cutting a length of plastic sheeting from the roll on the ground and taking it up a ladder. We have found that by stapling every 3 to 6 inches, a secure covering is made and the building can still breathe. Plastic applied as described has withstood the fabled New England weather for weeks while thoroughly protecting interiors.
Extra light adds safety
We have found a number of advantages to this method in addition to the safety of the man assigned to covering duties. The plastic allows light to pass through and therefore makes interior mopup safer. Also, the drenched interiors dry out much more quickly than when covered with tar paper. The homeowner is much happier to have only the tiny holes made by staples in his window trim instead of unsightly marks left by nails used to hold laths in place.
In keeping with the tradition of leaving the premises in the best possible condition after a fire, plastic has proved to be more suitable than tar paper.
Our success with plastic for covering openings started us thinking of plastic for salvage covers. In addition to the 4-foot width, sheeting is also available 16 feet wide, folded in quarters to make a roll 4 feet wide. We found that one man could spread covering material, working from the kit, over even the most difficult articles of equipment. The light weight of the sheeting is particularly advantageous when covering delicate articles, and the fact that the man can see what he is covering makes him more careful. Often, one stretch of plastic can cover the contents of an entire room where formerly two or more canvas covers had to be spliced together. Being able to select the length needed to do a particular job is a definite asset.
Better for shelves
In covering shelves full of stock, plastic once again is superior. It can be stretched quickly and gently up over the shelves and secured at the top with staples along the molding at the ceiling or along the top shelf. It is therefore unnecessary to remove the stock or to nail or hang heavy canvas covers with S hooks that too often damage stock.
The flexibility of operations using plastic seems to be endless. If a chute is needed to divert water coming through ceilings, the plastic can be stapled along the molding, stretched to a window and stapled to form a durable chute. If water is to be removed from a building down a stairway, plastic sheeting can be rolled down the stairs, tucked in and stapled in place. In the past, this operation took a minimum of two canvas covers spliced together and a problem usually presented itself at a turn in a stairway.
A trough to move water across an area can easily be constructed by placing wood on each side and laying the plastic over it. The sheeting can be held in place by the weight of the water or it can be stapled.
The possibilities of plastic are endless, limited only by the imagination of the men trying to solve salvage problems.
Property owners pleased
The public relations possibilities are another plus for this material. Before our shift to plastic, we were anxious to retrieve our covers a few days after a fire so that they could be cleaned, repaired and placed back in service. Unfortunately, the property owner usually had not been able to make the necessary repairs and wished to retain the covers. Often, our attempt to please the property owner resulted in severely damaged or lost covers.
With plastic, all this has changed. The covers are spread and left to be removed by property owners at their leisure. The owners’ gratitude sometimes takes the form of offering to pay for rolls of replacement plastic.
Frequently, there are no adequate facilities to clean, dry and repair covers. Often covers are washed on the station ramp and hung over reserve apparatus or suspended from the station ceiling to dry. Trying to protect the “salvage side” of covers is virtually impossible and the next time they are used, damage is done to articles you are trying to protect. Good salvage cover maintenance also requires periodic unfolding and airing. Plastic sheeting involves none of these drawbacks.
Withstands most chemicals
The fact that plastic is impervious to most chemicals is another advantage in this day and age when chemicals once found only in industry are readily found in homes. Plastic covering can be damaged by sparks and embers, but the economic loss involved is quite small when compared to that of canvas salvage covers.
From the standpoint of economics, plastic is cheaper than tar paper and laths for covering operations. The cost of a roll of plastic wide enough for salvage covers is one-third that of one salvage cover and provides from five to six “covers” of comparable size.
Since our shift to plastic, we have had many inquiries about our kits. We have prepared drawings of the salvage kits and explanatory material that are available upon request.