Salvage Related to Industrial Fire Protection

Salvage Related to Industrial Fire Protection





New York fire patrolmen improvise catch-all of tarpaulins and chairs to collect seepage from floor above, centering water run-off into catch-all, thus minimizing danger to costly machinery

—Photo courtesy New York Fire Patrol

IN PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS of this series on overhaul and salvage, we have stressed the wisdom of pre-fire salvage planning. Although such advance preparation is not limited to any single type occupancy, it applies particularly to manufacturing, mercantile and storage (wholesale) classifications, three groups within which are found the nation’s heaviest losses from fire, water and smoke.

Inasmuch as this issue of FIRE ENGINEERING devotes special attention to fires in industrial occupancies, with emphasis on private plant fire fighting facilities, it is timely to review here the subject of salvage in this same classification.

It is regrettable that the statistics of the 316 large loss fires which occurred in this country and Canada during 1955 do not include breakdown of the total damage by water, smoke and fire control operations as distinct from actual fire damage. From available data, it is apparent that what might be called the “contingencies” of fire extinguishment in some cases could have been as costly as the actual fire loss itself. The task of containing and controlling a serious fire may require the covering of exposures with heavy water streams, with possible resultant severe water damage. Sprinklers in exposures also may be opened and while the fire may be held, water losses may be heavy.

There are manufacturing installations in which water and smoke alone can be as destructive as fire itself. But not every management head in these plants is aware of the fact, nor has he prepared for possible serious eventualities.

Viewing salvage in the light of industrial fire losses, it appears that some businessmen in this group look upon salvage as something that is not their function but rather the job for the public fire department, if there is one. This belief naturally is more prevalent among industrial organizations not having a fully manned and equipped fire brigade, or trained fire squads, than it is among those who have. But even among the latter there are those who fail to include salvage operations as handmaiden to fire suppression.

This viewpoint is evidenced in the absence of suitable waterproof covers, sawdust and other salvage facilities in the fire brigades and/or in the plant safety setup. It is found also in the failure to include practical training of plant firemen and safety men in salvage operations. Salvage covers, particularly of the water repellant, treated canvas types are not strange to most factories, but although they may be carried on the plant mobile fire truck, or located at strategic points throughout the premises, in all too many cases the men who are expected to make effective use of these facilities have had only limited instruction in their application. And as for pre-fire planning for salvage (which should involve all supervisory personnel, as well as fire fighters of plants of any size) the over-all picture is not too bright. It is even dimmer in those establishments having no organized fire brigades or squads and where protection against water damage is the direct responsibility of no one person.

Pre-fire planning for Industrial Salvage

Possibly we overemphasize the importance of anticipating fire and/or water damage, and preparing for it. But, as in the prevention of fire itself, it is this planning for the emergency and attempting to forestall it that is of – even greater importance than attempting to salvage and reclaim damaged materials after the incident has occurred.

The preliminary steps to be taken in pre-emergency planning and setting up an industrial salvage program are simple. They include:

  1. Analysis of the hazards involved in building and occupancy (stocks of raw and finished materials, production processes, etc.).
  2. Study of the possibilities of fire and related property damage (building and contents, and exposures ).
  3. Possible water damage that may be incurred through accidental failure anywhere in the protective water extinguishing system (sprinkler leaks, or breaks, etc.).
  4. Financing the necessary facilities of personnel and facilities to minimize water, smoke and other damage through effective salvage operations.

In the preparation of a comprehensive program of salvage it may be desirable to call in an advisory salvage specialist, preferably through the local fire department; but regardless, the local fire chief should be consulted and be made familiar with the program.

Among the details for consideration in any pre-fire salvage program are:

  1. If there is a plant fire brigade, it should be equipped with suitable salvage covers and related equipment for their use (hooks, poles, short ladders, etc.). If the brigade operates any mobile fire trucks or other units, salvage covers should be included thereon with other equipment.
  2. Salvage covers should be located strategically throughout the plant, preferably in protected containers, and the locations well marked.
  3. Employees, particularly those working in hazardous areas, should be instructed in the use and limitations of covers. Men should practice under supervision of the plant fire chief or a salvage specialist, until thoroughly familiar with cover operations in case of fire or accidental sprinkler release. Having covers so located permits employees near at hand to spread them without first having to hunt up, locate and return with the covers.

Consider storage areas

According to Associated Factory Mutual Insurance Companies, pre-fire planning should particularly consider plant storage areas with a view to anticipating possible water and kindred damage. Fire in or near storage areas can be very costly because of the concentration of value of stored materials. Finished or near-finished goods represent ability to fill orders. Inability to make deliveries (because of fire and or water damage) may mean permanent loss of trade.

Factory Mutual has analyzed some 1,000 storage fires and as a result offers the following recommendations, most of which bear directly upon the subject of salvage.

Try to segregate storage. Keep it out of manufacturing areas.

Avoid locations below manufacturing processes unless the building construction is non-combustible and floors are watertight. Otherwise water used in fighting fire in upper stories can cause much damage to stock stored on lower floors. Covering the stock with water-resistant protective covers avoids the risk of such wet-downs.

Storage areas need automatic sprinklers if either storage or building is combustible. A water-flow alarm is usually advisable to assure prompt discovery of fires and minimize water damage. Ample water supply for sprinklers is also important, especially where stocks are susceptible to a burrowing fire. It is always advisable to have covers readily available in case of accidental sprinkler discharge.

Storage should be kept at least 18 inches below sprinklers so that it will not prevent proper distribution of water, and will permit men to spread covers if necessary.

Sub-divide storage where possible. Where practical, split up storage between two or three different areas. Within any one area sub-divide materials into reasonable piles with ample aisles to facilitate fire fighting and salvage operations.

Low-grade materials, which are susceptible to spontaneous heating, should be kept separate from highgrade stock.

Have covers (and extinguishing equipment) available for all welding and cutting operations.

To minimize water damage, storage areas should have floor drains and all destructible stock should be skidded at least four inches above the floor. Pallets are advisable for moving and stacking materials.

The location of drains should be clearly indicated by lights and/or placards so that out-of-plant firemen and salvage corpsmen, as well as plant employee’s can readily find them (See April, 1956, FIRE ENGINEERING “Dewatering Basements”).

Constant inspection by plant fire and safety personnel should be carried out to make sure that all water as well as fire hazards are removed, or at worst, minimized regardless of the plant fire protection facilities.

Pre-fire inspections should take into consideration details of shelving, as well as skidding of stock. Improperly constructed shelves and those built to the ceiling against a wall are the cause of large water loss. It is almost impossible to cover stock placed in shelves against a wall. Under such circumstances the only course is to remove the material before water reaches it.

It is not unusual for factory workers to leave serviceable material lying about on the floor, or on benches after working hours, and thus subject it to possible water damage in case of fire or sprinkler accident.

There is an increasing trend toward packing merchandise in moisture proof containers and this practice is especially helpful to those charged with salvage. Although waxed, oiled and treated cellulose conceivably might add to the combustibility of merchandise, the hazard is said to be negligible compared with their value as a salvage producing agent.

Fifty salvage covers used at pattern works fire. Prompt, effective coverage saved costly motors, patterns and other machinery at this Cincinnati, Ohio, multiple alarm industrial fire, May 27, 1953

Photo courtesy Underwriters Salvaye Corps, Cincinnati

Salvage covers of all kinds find broad use in today's plant protection. The transparent plastic type pictured here protects against water damage and at the same time allows easy identification of the material in the stack

In some factories, such as clothing, stock is often protected by dust covers. These are usually made of light-weight material not intended to be waterproof. The new plastic covers can be used to serve both as protection against dust and water. In addition, some of them have the advantage of being reasonably transparent.

Post-fire industrial salvage and reclamation

Planning and preparing for fire salvage eventualities will have reduced the need of post-fire salvage to the minimum. However, every industrial plant has machinery and equipment subject to water or smoke damage, or to both, much of which cannot be fully protected in time of fire or flood. It is essential, therefore, that postemergency salvage operations begin at the earliest possible moment. The longer the delay, the more difficult salvage and reclamation, and the greater the ultimate loss. This calls for having the necessary salvage prerequisites, trained manpower and equipment, readily available.

The methods for post-fire salvage vary according to occupancy. So, too, in a measure do the salvage facilities. Thus, where furniture is involved, it would be considered wise to have a plentiful supply of sponges and chamois on hand for cleaning up those areas where water penetrated. Excess moisture can be sponged up, and polishing with chamois will help to restore much material to its original condition.

If machinery is involved, and it frequently is in industrial occupancies, it can be dried by any one of several methods and then wiped down with oil waste as a rust preventative. Other treatment may be given special apparatus and equipment, but these treatments should be pre-determined. In short, no time should be lost experimenting with different salvage methods following the incident. That is the value of pre-emergency planning.

In many instances, money can be saved by calling extra help for overhauling stock, rubbing down and oiling machinery, and separating portions which are recoverable. Prompt salvaging will enable temporary repairs to be made more quickly, thus permitting the business to resume operations promptly and reduce losses due to shut down which under some conditions can exceed fire losses.

The Salvage Truck

Many industrial plants maintain separate salvage trucks, either selfpropelled or trailer, or pushcart type. The nature of the unit depends upon the salvage tasks that may be encountered in the plant.

In some factories provision is made to use a fork-truck, or other powered unit, to pick up a supply of salvage covers and truck them to where they are needed. Where fire brigades are large enough, salvage covers and other equipment are carried on fire fighting apparatus.

It is the policy of many industrial fire chiefs and safety engineers to have a suitable reserve of covers, or to know where they can be quickly secured. At the Lansing, Mich., office building fire, hundreds of covers were required—far beyond the supply of the local fire department. In the emergency, industries for miles around were called upon for help and they supplied the necessary covers.

A simple, compact salvage cart can be contrived out of a dolly, tote box, or hand truck. It should have suitable provision for pulling and steering. If large enough, it may be self-propelled, or it can consist of a box that can quickly be mounted on a power operated truck.

Equipment for such a unit should include: Sprinkler shut-offs and extra heads, assorted wrenches, covers, pails, sponges, mops, squeegees, sawdust, brooms, shovels, rope, flashlights or larger lamps, assorted wrenches, warning tags for sprinkler shut-downs, etc.

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