PROCEEDINGS OF NEW YORK STATE FIRE CHIEFS
(Continued from page 14)
President Mack. We will then proceed to the next paper. Topic No. 5—”Fire Prevention in Factories and Other Buildings,” by Chief Thomas O’Connor, of the General Electric Co. Fire Department, Schenectady.
Chief O’Connor’s paper was as follows:
Fire Prevention methods were taken up by the factory owners years ago and have been developed through years of experience which has proven very successful and satisfactory. The factory owners learned that it paid to use more than ordinary care in keeping their plants free from conditions from which a fire might originate from carelessness and poor housekeeping. The employes were instructed in the care of their buildings and departments, small appliances were installed and men assigned to care for them, inspections were regularly made to see that all buildings, floors and yards were kept in first class condition, and that the men assigned to care for their various sections performed the duty assigned them. The matter of better building construction was taken up and from the old wooden and brickwalled joisted construction developed the plank on timber, or slow burning type of construction; after this came the fire resistive reinforced concrete type which is considered the best type of factory construction to-day. With the erection of large buildings great floor areas brought about the fire wall to isolate one section of the building from the other and to provide a means of exit for the employes; the fire walls also provided better means for the Fire Department to confine the fire to where it originated. The fire walls also provided a means for separating the various hazards of manufacturing processes which were carried on upon one floor. In our factories to-day we have a sprinkler equipment throughout our buildings, and ample supply of interior fire hose lines on each floor, and an equipment of fire pails, fire alarm boxes, gongs, exit drill signal systems and other appliances and apparatus which is cared for by a member of the Fire Devartment assigned to the section and whose duty it is to see that all of the equipment in his section is ready for service at all times. The shops are swept all day long and no sweepings or scrap are left over night. The sweepings are removed to dump cars which are hauled away at quitting time daily. All of the fire pails are filled once a week. General care is taken to anticipate any condition that may cause a fire or any interference with the fire extinguishing equipment in the shops. At night the buildings are patrolled every half hour, the patrolmen registering on time clocks. These records are checked up every morning with the patrolmen’s daily reports, and all conditions reported are corrected. In our factories the instructions relating to Fire Prevention are carried out as part of the regular routine business; the custom has been long established and is not a comparatively recent campaign as it is in the cities where there is much work to be done in order to make the people see the light and learn the value of Fire Prevention. Fire Prevention is a matter of education which reaches the individual, who must understand that a certain amount of responsibility rests upon the individual. In order to bring this about the individual must be shown, and that means a strenuous campaign of education in Fire Prevention.
Most of the enterprising manufacturers of to-day are for the modern fire resistive type of building construction. They having learned from experience, either personal or front observation, that it is more economical in matters of insurane, and that it is financially more satisfactory to have their production go on without interruption, than it is to have it held up for an indefinite period with business losses that they could never recoup on account of a disastrous fire. The buildings
in our well kept Industrial Plants are sprinkled throughout, and are equipped with inside hose lines, each line covering a certain section of a floor. The fire pails are placed about plentifully, and in conspicuous locations. About electrical apparatus sand in contained in pails, and in large wooden boxes properly marked; a large shovel is placed in each sand box. In places where volatile oils are used sawdust is kept conveniently located and is kept in barrels properly marked, and is kept in boxes on two wheeled trucks. The trucks are very handy because they can be readily moved about, and several can be quickly brought to one place. Where volatile oils are used extensively individual brick cells are installed, these being fitted with sprinklers and with live steam jets. The gases are exhausted from the cells by exhausters installed on roof outside cells. The gases are drawn from the floor and from over the tops of the tanks and are conducted to the outside of the building by a large pipe which extends through the roof of the building. The cells are electrically lighted, the lamps being enclosed in heavy glass guarded globes. The supply to the steam jets in the cells are manually operated, while the sprinklers are automatic. The sprinklers can be readily shut off from outside of each cell. The live steam valves and sprinkler valves are placed close together on outside wall of cell and are properly marked by a sign stating the use of the valve. At the roof of the cell is a large pipe, an explosion funnel, which has two automatic dampers which, after an explosion occurred, would close so as to keep live steam in cell. We find live steam very effective for fires in cells, the fire lasting less than a minute after the steam has been turned into the cell. Fires in electrical apparatus, the current is shut off first. On small apparatus sand and a chemical from a small extinguisher are used: water can be used with but little damage to the machine. For large generators for where a fire assumes comparatively large proportions hose streams are used under full pressure until fire is extinguished. Transformers air cooled type, after current is shut off, hose streams are used effectively. In oil cooled transformers the large machines are connected to a catch basin or sewer, and have a quick opening valve on drain pipe. Many of the smaller transformers are also connected with a drain pipe, this removes the oil from the transformer tank, which after the oil has been removed, can be readily filled with water if necessary. At the Pittsfield Works of the General Electric Co. carbon dioxide is used as an extinguisher. A stationary generating set is installed where the machines are tested, and the section of the Test is piped from the carbon dioxide generators, small hose lines being attached at frequent intervals along the pipe line. We have good reports from the use of this gas which forms a blanket over the burning oil. The largest transformers contain about 250 barrels of oil. Small dip tanks are fitted with automatic drop covers with fusible link attached. Blankets are kept close by to seal up top of covers should they not fit tightly, and the blankets and also a supply of wet bags are used for smothering volatile oil fires. In our compound factory under large hoods over the boiling vats automatic sprinklers are installed. We have great success with the sprinklers and our fire loss in the compound building is very small. In the boiling room of the varnish factory, flash and other fires in the pots of boiling varnish are easily extinguished with hose streams, and the water boiled out afterwards with very little loss. Fire departments are maintained in all of the large manufacturing plants, and are well trained and equipped. In the General Electric Fire Department, we have 138 men formed into eight companies, seven hose companies and a ladder company. Each company is assigned to a piece of apparatus and responds with same to alarms of fire. The men are equipped with helmets, coats and boots, these
being kept in the shops at the fireemn’s work bench. Our men are dratted from the shops, each covers a section of each floor, and these men handle all small fires on their respective floors. The men respond to alarms sounded on box gongs, the fire alarm box numbers correspond to the building number, all of our buildings being numbered in numerical order. Fire Department drills are held twice per month. Individual company drills are held in the spring, and during the rest of the season the department responds on a bell alarm the same as to a regular alarm of fire. The companies work on a building just the same as if a fire was in progress. The drills are held after working hours. In many factories the alarm is sounded on a whistle, and the men respond to signals for a certain location, and at the reception of an alarm each company is assigned to a certain location. The response at the G. E. Works is the same as in a city, our plant is so large, and the buildings so laid out, that this method works well here. A well organized fire department is necessary as a protection measure. Automatic appliances are very good but they need constant care and are liable to be inoperative when their services are needed. Automatic sprinklers, if properly cared for, are of the greatest fire protective service. They are always on the job and begin their work so quickly when a fire breaks out that there is almost nothing to it: if they do not have the fire completely out when the department arrives, they have it well under control. In factory yards we find hydrant hose houses installed; a wooden house built over a hydrant containing 200 feet 2 1/2 inch hose, 100 feet connected to hydrant and 100 feet held in reserve on a shelf above the hydrant. In hazardous locations several houses are installed. At the G. E. Works we have 41 of the houses in service. At night the fire alarm boxes and the interior hose lines are marked with a colored light, a red light is installed over every hose line and a blue light over each inside fire alarm box. This is a good measure as it makes it easy for the night patrolmen to locate the fire alarm boxes and the hose lines. For the protection of life and property in manufacturing buildings, or in any other buildings, no amount should be spared to make them as safe as possible. The buildings can be made fire resistive inside and out. The contents in manufacturing plants can be cared for by prevention methods to reduce the hazard to contents and the isolation of special hazards. Office buildings can be fitted with fire resistive furnishings and furniture. Ample exits can be provided for a safe exit of occupants of buildings. And above all, all buildings should be sprinkled; the sprinklers are a life saver as well as a saver of property. If some of our factories, from which we learned very severe lessons, had been sprinkled, it would have meant the saving of a number of lives which have been lost, and a number of buildings from great damage or total destruction. Fire prevention is a campaign of never ceasing vigilance in the instruction of the people, in the danger from fire, in the shop, in the home, and in public places. Fire Protection comes after prevention, in that we fortify ourselves against an attack from our common enemy, with our men, appliances and apparatus at hand we ound the red plague into submission.
President Mack: “Discussions are now open cn this topic.” ,
J. M. Lynch, State Commissioner of Labor: “When the secretary of this association requested that the state department of labor should be represented to-day, we decided that the request should be answered and I shall do the very best I can with the proposition. I am very much pleased with the remarks of Chief O’Conner. His subject is one of the things the Department of Labor is interested in, and they have held experiments along this line. I believe the public regards the chief function of the fire department as fighting of fire. However, it seems to me that fire prevention is the most important, and that fire fighting is merely secondary. It is, to my mind, like the prevention of tuberculosis. Greater efforts are being made along prevention of this disease year after year. So it is with the question of fire prevention. Recently I ran across a pamphlet in which it is stated that the cotton men were the first to impress the idea of fire prevention on the minds of those interested in that field. This I understand was in 1835. One of the first experiments along the line of fire prevention was with what is now known as “slow burning” construction. These men started the movement which has led up to fire escapes, automatic sprinklers and various other safety devices. Prevention of loss of life has also made great strides in recent years. The object of the Department of Labor is the prevention of accident and for general safety and health of workmen. I understand that there are in this state about 50,000 factories. By factories I do not mean individual buildings but individual plants. For instance the various small clothing manufacturers, etc. Some of the items mentioned in the pamphlet are fire walls, etc. The state labor department intends to cement the fire fighting bodies with the state department of labor and fire prevention bodies. I hope to have another chief from the fire service in my department. We have already secured Chief Quigley, and I believe the greatest results can be gotten by enlisting the aid of those who have studied the subject of fire fighting from the practical standpoint. We need the aid of the fire service in carrying out the laws relative to protection of lives in buildings. It may take another Asch Building fire to arouse the people to adopting these laws but they must ultimately be secured and enforced.”
Secretary Yates: “There is a matter which I think would be interesting to the members of this association. If Chief Hogg will enlighten us as to the fatal fire in Binghamton, I am sure we will all greatly appreciate it. I understand that the large loss of life was due to the fact that the employees thought the alarm was only a signal for fire drill and many of them returned to the cloak rooms to get their wraps before departing.”
Chief Hogg: “I have not had anything to do with the inspection of buildings or the enforcing of any of the laws pertaining thereto recently. The matter was at that time turned over to my assistants. My work was so heavy around that period that I could not give it any attention. From the fire prevention point, it is a very peculiar fact that since we have been making inspections of buildings, our fire losses have increased. This is probably due to other causes not connected with the inspections. The inspections we (have made have been very thorough and most of them have been made in factory buildings. As to the Binghamton Clothing Fire, it was a very peculiar fire. It was without doubt the quickest that I have ever met. The alarm came by telephone, followed by a box and it was less than five blocks run, but when we arrived the building was a mass of flames. They had been pulling off drills there but had gotten careless about it, and they thought the alarm was a drill and paid little attention. The real cause of the fire has never been learned and probably the only one who could have given any information on it was the engineer in connection with the factory who was killed during the fire. I believe there was something in the way of very inflammable material to aid the fire in its progress. The rapidity of the fire was most astonishing but we believe the majority of them could have gotten out if they knew that the gong sounded was not for a fire drill.”
Secretary Yates: “Then you are of the opinion that many of the girls had gone for their wraps and that the majority of them would have been saved had they known the real circumstances.”
Chief Hogg: “That I thoroughly believe.”
Secretary Yates: “Then you believe that there should be some special time for fire drill purposes.”
Chief Hogg: “That would be the best possible solution for the matter.”
Fire Prevention and Protection in Other Buildings.
State Fire Marshal Thomas J. Ahearn read a paper on “Fire Prevention and Protection in Other Buildings” in the course of which he said:
“It will be observed that the topic assigned covers all buildings other than factories, which latter were covered by a previous paper. Under Section 351, Subdivision 6, of the State Fire Marshal Law, it would therefore be broad enough to cover every other building mentioned in that subdivision, except factories, and so would include ‘asylums, hospitals, churches, schools, halls, theatres, amphitheatres, and all other places in which numbers of persons work, live or congregate tfrom time to time for any purpose.” It must be conceded that it is therefore too comprehensive to permit of minute treatement as to each class of buildings separately. Only the most general and leading considerations and suggestions can therefore be expected. Then, too, it is taken for granted that not merely the protection of property, but of life as well, is intended. Of course if the question arises as to whether there are fireproof buildings, where only fireproof materials are employed, architects claim buildings are fireproof. On the other hand, fire engineers and others assert that there is no such thing as a fireproof structure. Where fireproof material is exclusively employed no building can burn of itself, and therefore, technically considered, it is without doubt fireproof. When, however, filled with inflammable materials such as furniture, fixtures and goods used in the carrying on of business, it cannot longer be strictly classed as fireproof. Many buildings that are popularly looked upon as fireproof are, in the last analysis, only fire-resistant. Not only the fire and water, but the weight test also should be applied. Last February a fire occurred on the second floor of a six-story concrete building in West 36th Street, Manhattan. The place was stocked with building material for packing goods, and although the firemen arrived promptly after the alarm, they found a fire of considerable dimensions under way. Hose was taken up the front stairs and rear of the building, and the fire fought from both sides at close quarters. The men had to be changed at the nozzles, owing to the great heat that prevailed; yet the fire was controlled in a comparatively short time. Examination of the loft showed that the walls were badly scorched, and three-quarters of the contents of the place destroyed; but no other injury was done to the building. This was in every sense a fireproof structure. Results like this prove that the fire loss must be materially decreased through improved construction. Windows should be fitted with proper wire glass, and doors swinging out on to balconies of fire escapes should be fireproof and open outwardly. There should be automatic fire alarm systems installed in all buildings of two stories and over, where numbers of persons may work or congregate. Under certain circumstances even fire pails, and casks filled with water, are highly recommended. In the awful Binghamton disaster, if there had been six pails of water at hand, it was claimed the fire would not have spread. But the chemical fire extinguisher properly maintained and charged is very effective, and can be readily and easily handled, even by persons not conversant with its action or peculiarities. Every building, in relation to its size, character, use and congestion of its location, should be so constructed as to prevent the passage of fire from within to without and vice versa. All building construction, and reconstruction, should include in design, specification, construction and appliances, adequate safeguards against danger to life and property; all should be required by law to be fitted with adequate fire exits and escapes, proportioned to their human occupancy in accord with reasonable exit tests. Building construction and reconstruction should therefore be under governmental control, state or local, so that the
greatest safety for the greatest number may be reached.”
Mr. Roesch: “In addition to the paper by hire Marshal Ahearn, I would like to add a few statements. 1 am very glad to have this opportunity to address you. Our department has been most anxious to bring atiout co-operation in the state department with the fire chiefs. You are part of the judiciary of the state; part of the police power ol the state. You are charged with the peace and welfare of our cities of the state. Your people often look up to you with admiration. You should feel when you leave this convention that you are going away with a decided gain, not only to yourself but to the community which you represent. You can not gain much by merely listening to the papers read here, or taking part in the discussions. It is the carrying out of the ideas you get here that really count for anything. It has been suggested that the European law be adopted in this country in connection with fires; for instance, the loss at a fire should be charged up to the owner and he be responsible for the fire. There is such a case now pending in the state, and the outcome will be awaited with interest. The law in this state should be changed so that the man who is in any way responsible for negligence when a fire takes place should be punished for the crime of arson. If we punish such cases of negligence, we would readily see a great decrease in the number of the cases of arson and mysterious fires. Such a law should also apply to those who in any way cause injury to any person through negligence. Take for instance the man who goes into the theatre and throws down a lighted cigar or cigarette. Such carelessness often is fatal. The state fire marshal’s office should be enforced to take such men into court for such carelessness. Make the members in the state fire marshal’s department officers with power to arrest. The insurance rates at the present time are the very same to the careless men as to the careful ones. Make the insurance companies be obliged to inspect more_ carefully and be more strict in granting policies, and we would have much less arson.”
Chief John Espey, Elmira, N. Y.: “Mr. Roesch has covered this subject very thoroughly, and there is really little left to discuss. I might state, however, that we had a very peculiar fire in our city. We use natural gas almost entirely, and, as is usually known, there is practically no odor to this gas, still it is highly inflammable and its presence is hard to detect. There occurred a fire recently and the department on arriving found a child horribly burned. The body was almost charred. Alongside of this child were two others severely burned. We found on investigating that some plumbers who were making a connection to a water main outside of the building by accident coupled the gas main to the water pipe. When the child went downstairs in the morning to light the gas stove, on striking a match, the gas in the room exploded. Such a case of carelessness could hardly be imagined. Another case occurred in our city when a water main which was the entire supply for a factory was frozen up. Should a fire get any start, it would be impossible to handle it under such conditions.”
Chief W. W. Bridgeford: “I believe that drills should be made in factories at all times. We are doing considerable work in our city along the line of factory and school drills. Fifteen hundred people are employed in one factory in our city and we were able to clear them all out in two minutes, a very short period of time. In this test, the girls previously knew nothing of the drill and it was a surprise to the majority of the officers of the company. In one school, 800 pupils were dismissed by fire alarm and all got out in very short time. We also have drills in the Albany hospitals and every nurse knows her place. It is remarkable, the speed with which they are able to empty the building. Factory drills are usually made once a month and each time on a different day so that the employees will not ihink its merely a drill and be careless about it.”
(Continued on page 28)
Proceedings of New York State Fire Chiefs
(Continued from Page 19.)
Chief T. C. Collin: “I believe that the fire drills should be made at all times. The method we use is to notify the official in charge of the factory just before the signal is given. In one case the janitor gave nonce and they responded very quickly. At a school also, where the janitor gave the signal, tile building was cleared in a remarkably short period. The principal knew nothing of the drill, and was very much surprised to find that it was not a real fire.”
Secretary Yates: “We have fire drills in every class of buildings in the city. I once gave a drill when a Regents Examination was being held and according to the state regents regulations, all papers were void as the students being tested left the building during the course of the examination. There are a very few chiefs who can walk into a factory and pull an alarm. In Binghamton they send in a signal and the girls went into the cloak room to get their wraps before they should go out. This counted for the great loss’ of life.”
Chief Thomas O’Connor: “In the matter of drills, we have men in our factory whose duty it is to see that all people get out at the alarm. If they do not, these men are supposed to carry them out.”
Chief R. A. Maxon: “I go in a school and tell the superintendent that I wish the drill at any time, and he pulls the gong at that second. The superintendent does not know’ until the moment T ask him to pull an alarm that this is going to lie a drill, consequently lie has no time to notify any of the teachers or studeuts.”