PRIVATE FIRE PROTECTION

PRIVATE FIRE PROTECTION

Gorham Dana, manager of the Underwriters’ Bureau of New England, in an address delivered the other day before the New England Waterworks association adverted to the installation of sprinklers. Some waterworks departments, unwisely as he thought, object to allowing the proper size sprinkler connection where the street main is small. But, “in case of fire, water must be used and sprinklers will put it out with less water than hose streams. If the connection is not large enough, the sprinklers may fail to do what is expected of them, and hose streams will then have to be used in addition. Therefore, it appears to be economy for the water department to allow the proper size of connection, no matter what is the size of main. In some cases, a ruling has been made that no connection over 4-in. in size can be made, although more than one such connection can be had, where necessary —an unnecessary hardship on the taxpayer. In the first place, it generally introduces another gate and check-valve, which adds to the expense as well as introduces another chance for trouble, due to valves being closed by mistake. It also means more friction-loss.” The only reason for this rule seems to be “that there is less chance of waste, in case of a break.” But, “if two 4-in. connections entered a building and were brought together to feed one 6-in. riser, a break in this riser would be fed by two 4-in. pipes, which have a capacity of practically the same as one 6-in. and, in case of a break in the 4-in., the water would come from each direction and would again be altout the equivalent of one 6-in. As a matter of fact, tlie chance of breakage in one of these large pipes is extremely small, and it would seem that the benefit from a good sprinkler system would more than offset any possible danger of wasting water at a time when it was needed elsewhere.” As to metering private fire-pipes: Underwriters object to the practice, alleging that it causes extra expense through friction-loss and other complications, such as clogging. The Detector meters, however, he admitted, have overcome this trouble to a large extent, and the practice can be justified, because water departments often suffer through water being stolen from sprinkler systems, and it is their duty to put a stop to such thefts. Insurance companies, however, “do not allow sprinkler-pipes to be used for any other purpose. All water departments should have a similar rule and should enforce it rigidly In addition, they may seal all dripvalves and private hydrants and require that they be notified if a seal has to be broken for any reason. * * This is done in some cities.” Nearly all the sprinkler systems contain alarm valves. Now an alarm-valve placed in a sprinkler pipe is to my mind just as good as a meter. No water can pass through the pipe, without giving an alarm, provided tile alarms are in order. I he insurance inspectors going through the plant several times a year see that these are kept in order. In cities where there is sprinkler-supervision such devices can be supervised from a central station, in which ease, a trouble signal is received, in ease any part of the system gets out of order. If further proof is needed, small sized meters (t in. or 44-in.) can be placed in the pipe that runs to the alarm-bell. In this case, no water can be drawn through the sprinklw-pipt without registering on this meter. This does not give the actual amount passing through the system; but the proportion could be roughly fig ured. In case there is a rule not to use any, the amount is not important, for the rule is broken and the person who does it can IKpunished.” Another means suggested is to place a recording pressure gauge on the pipe from the alarm valvea method which (he claims), incase of fiowage, owing to the pressure, would record on the gauge and dial, the exact length of time, during which the flowage occurred. With respect to an annual charge being made for sprinkler-connections, front waterworks systems, as is done in some localities: The insurance engineer is concerned in these, as “it is his duty to keep the cost of such equipments as low as possible, so that they may be more general)’ installed, and thus cut down the fearful annual fire-waste. Where a waterworks system is owned by a town or city and supported by public taxes (Mr. Dana proceeded), there appears to be no more reason for charging for private fire-service than for public protection. It may be thought best to make the property owner pay for the original cost of installing such a connection; but it certainly seems wrong to charge him any annual rental. This, of course, is assuming that the fire-service pipes are used for fire protection only, as they should be. The property owner is entitled to public fire protection on account of the taxes he pays. I f he chooses to put in at considerable expense private fire protection that will put out a fire with the use of much less water than would be used by fire department, it is certainly not fair to make him pay the community for so doing. It would seem rather that the community should pay him for making such an improvement. Where the water system is owned by a private corporation the problem is somewhat different. In this case, the town usually pays the water company a given amount per year for each hydrant. Now there seems to be no reason why the private connection should not be placed on the same basis as hydrants in this case, too. If a mill owner should ask for more public hydrants near his plant, they would be supplied without cost to him. If, therefore, he asks for sprinkler-connection which will put out the fire with less water, why should he not be supplied with that too, at the town’s expense? As in the previous case, this is on the supposition that the sprinkler-connection will be used for fire purposes only. The domestic service connection should be entirely separate. If he desires more yard-hydrants, these, too, might be well supplied at public expense, at least, so far as annual rental is concerned, for such hydrants are simply an extension of the public hydrant system and to this he is entitled, if he pays taxes.” As to the basis for payment for fire-service connections: Mr. Dana thinks it only fair some payment should be made either by the town or the property owner, where a private corporation owns the waterworks. A charge of so much per sprinkler he considers unfair, because “sprinklers are installed on the theory that only one floor will be on fire at once. Sprinklers (he insists) will almost always control a fire before it spreads to another floor, and, if they do allow it to spread to this extent, the chances are that they will not control it all. The same size connections and riser are allowed for a 10-story building as for a i-story building, provided the floor-areas are the same. Only so much water can be obtained from a given sized pipe, whether it supplies to stories or one. “Some water companies charge a certain proportion of the insurance carried, or a proportion of the reduction in rate allowed by the insurance companies for the protection.” This method, also, Mr. Dana considers unfair, as “it might be that a large portion of the insurable value at the plant was in storehouses that contained no fire protection. Again, the reduction in rate for improved fire protection is not based on the protection afforded by public water connections only, but, also, on private water supplies, such as pumps and tanks, upon private brigades, private hose, watchman’s service and numerous other features. The fairest basis for the charge would seem to be that of the number and size of connections, for it is this that determines the amount of water that could be used in such a system. It would seem fair to consider a 4-in. connection as about the equivalent of one hydrant, for this is the smallest size of pipe permitted for a hydrant supply. On this basis a 6-in. pipe would be the equivalent of two hydrants, and an 8-in. pipe to four hydrants, a 10-in. to six hydrants, etc., this being figured on the relative area of these pipes. If, therefore, the price charged per hydrant is taken as a standard, and the sprinkler-connection is figured on the above basis, we should have a simple method of computation, yet one that is fair both to the property owner and the water corporation.”

PRIVATE FIRE PROTECTION.

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PRIVATE FIRE PROTECTION.

(Especially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING)

The subject now interesting the waterworks owners and managers most deeply and bearing both upon the physical efficiency and financial balances of a waterworks plant, is discussed under the heading of “Private fire protection.” The physical efficiency is one that involves the general efficiency of a waterworks plant, aside from any specific risk, in an industrial plant adopting the sprinkler system, as a primary and auxiliary protection other than that furnished by a city fire department, using the fire hydrants and regular fire apparatus of a well organised and well equipped department. In writing about this subject, I will not attempt to foresee, nor forestall new ideas that will be discussed at the convention of the American Water Works association in Detroit, this month; but my line of thought will be rather a preface to the subject, so that your readers may follow it up in reading the discussion from the Proceedings of the convention. This convention will treat upon a subject which involves conflicting interests, the waterworks,’ the insurance companies, the manufacturer of sprinkler systems, the fire departments, and the insured. These interests conflict, because each has studied its own side of the question, without proper regard to all the rights of the other, and the waterworks plants are not any less excusable than other parties at interest. For the foregoing reason, therefore, the American Water Works association has invited the attendance of expert insurance men to visit the Detroit convention, to talk over with waterworks experts the differences between them, and endeavor to reach an amicable and equitable understanding.

PRIVATE FIRE PROTECTION PLANT.

We all have rights that each should respect, and under certain conditions as a business and protective proposition must recognise. The physical efficiency of a waterworks plant may be impaired by a large flow of water to a sprinkler system, reducing pressure on water mains which may be required to protect other adjacent property. It is assumed, however, that a sprinkler system properly installed, and given close attention after installation, will practically stop a fire in its incipient stage. If we accept this as true, then there is no remote danger of reduced pressure on feed-mains. If, however, the fire should get beyond the control of the sprinklers, and the controling valves to this sprinkler system are not in good order, or arc located in an inaccessible place, then the hazard becomes greater to the initial risk, as well as to adjoining property.

This phase of the question is a point where the waterworks, the insurance companies, and the insured should guard well, and this can be done by a rigid insurance inspection at the time of installation. Water departments should refuse to supply water to these sprinkler systems, and insurance companies should refuse to write policies at reduced rates on these sprinkler system risks, where the foregoing precautions have not been observed in the construction of the system. A deluge of water will run through pipes that may be broken in a burning building and become a positive loss of water without rendering any protective service, and also proportional loss of pressure on the mains, unless a valve is located in the supply pipe, whereby easy and ready control may be had over the water flowing to the sprinkler system. There are many instances where water departments and insurance companies have carried such risks, and found out, when too late, that poor and indifferent inspections had caused great loss to the insurance companies, and an inefficient service by the waterworks at a critical moment, when a valve properly located and handled by a special man, intrusted with its care, would have provided favorable conditions. Indifferent inspections are accountable in a large measure for the insistence by waterworks on the introduction of meters in fire lines. The insurance inspectors are not careful to follow the instructions given them by their superiors, in some instances, and “wink at” or fail to see connections in sprinkler systems which furnish water for other purposes than that of fire protection, that impairs the system as a protective measure and allows the surreptitious use of water without cost to an industrial plant and an actual financial loss to the water department.

This condition can be remedied by a cross check upon such plants. Water companies should shut off water where these conditions are found, and insurance companies should cancel policies where sprinkler systems are “tapped.”

This “cross checking,” however, is only a substitute for the meter, which is really the best inspector and detective of water waste or surreptitious use of water.

As to its being considered an obstruction in the fire line: This must be taken relatively, and is open to further discussion at Detroit. Like the introduction of meters and mechanical filters in water departments, and the chemical engine in fire departments. these modern devices have had to outlive prejudice, because their true value is now understood and very generally accepted. And so it is with the sprinkler system. Starting out with an unfounded prejudice, it is now accepted as a firstclass auxiliary protection, and is so accepted by the insurance companies and credited upon their premium risks. In the South, where they particularly come under my notice, no cotton mill owner or warehouseman can secure reasonable insurance rates, unless their plants are equipped with this modern protective system and you will find all such plants so equipped. In isolated cotton mills, where they cannot secure municipal connection, they establish their own plant, with an Underwriters’ pump and a tank, usually placed upon a tower of the mill.

The up-to-date fire department has ceased to kick against the sprinkler system, because it extinguishes the incipient fire. The chief of a fire department prefers small losses in his report, to supposed gal lantry in a large fire loss, which is charged against his department in the total annual loss. The volunteer fire department is gradually disappearing if, not as a whole, it is partially so; and, where a city or town cannot afford a full paid department, the drivers are usually paid, with a few call men, who are subject to call at any time, and this cuts out the prejudice against the sprinkler system, by the firemen, as in “ye olden days” they so much enjoyed the credit of putting the “first water” on the fires. The sprinkler system has taken their place; and is a device on duty all the time; is ready with the “first bucket of water;” and is a practical modern utility in private fire protection.

The points at issue with the sprinkler system are proper and careful installation, rigid inspection, meterage in combination with some reliable automatic device to prevent surreptitious use of water, and valves accessible to control them promptly.