THE DANGERS OF ELECTRIC LIGHTING.

THE DANGERS OF ELECTRIC LIGHTING.

MISCELLANY.

A case in court in this city, wherein residents of a certain street claim that the electric light wires therein are a damage, a nuisance, and dangerous, has attracted much attention. The New York Times has printed many columns to show that these wires are extremely dangerous. We quote as follows:

Conflagration and death are threatened by every inch of the big arc light wires, of which hundreds of thousands of feet are strung up all over the city. They are a constant menace to the lives of those who walk beneath them, and to the permanency of the stately buildings whose architectural beauties they veil and mar. They are liable to kill, with the lightning’s suddenness and certainty, the Fireman who directs a stream of water across them; and, now that means have been found for doubling the time of exposure to their mischievous power by the use of ” storage batteries,” their facilities for slaughter are to be extended to the household, the theatre, the workshop, and the church. It is only a few days since that an electric arc light wire, dropping too near a lamp post on Broadway, produced a result that the policeman on post described as ” shoots of fire as long as me night Club leppin out of it,” and a number of cases have been reported by the police this season in which these wires have set fire to the foliage of trees in the public parks and squares. To this cause was attributed the burning of Martin Landenbcrger’s mill in September, 1881. In July, 1882, a fire was started in the show-window of John Wanamaker’s store, Thirteenth and Chestnut streets, Philadelphia, by an arc light wire, and in John Wyeth & Brother’s drug store, No. 1412 Walnut street, another conflagration was started by the burning of the supposably insulating covering on an electric wire. Possibly the most singular of all the many accidents reported as caused by the electric light wire was that which occurred to a gentleman at the Paris Electrical Exhibition. He was leaning over a railing, and his dangling gold watch chain made a connection between two conducting wires, with the result of heating it red hot and setting fire to his clothing. So well has the danger of fire from these wires been recognized, that last year the Boston fire insurance companies made it the subject of an exhaustive investigation, and adopted stringent regulations intended to control the employment of this mode of lighting so as to diminish its dangers.

But the hazard to life is even greater than that of fire, and the increasing number of fatal accidents caused by arc light wires, as their use is extended, demonstrates beyond question that public safety demands such measures of defense from them at have not yet lieen adopted. In February, 1882, Henry lialzcr, a workman in Carnegie & Co.’s iron mill, Pittsburgh, was instantly killed by simply allowing a lamp that he held to touch an arc light wire. I11 the succeeding month two such accidents occurred—one in the Cleveland Rolling Mill, by which William Karampe, who incautiously touched a dynamo, was killed and had his hands and arms hideously charred and distorted; the other of a gas-fitter in Birmingham, England, who, toppling upon a ladder whereon lie was standing, threw out his arm holding a pair of gas-pipe tongs to recover his balance, and, touching an arc light wire, fell a corpse at the foot of the ladder. In August last year to a soldier and a civilian, botlf young men, attending the Fete dc la Jcunesse in the garden of the Tuileries in Paris, occurred the bad idea of climbing over the wall in order to get out of the garden more quickly than by going to the gale. Arc light wires were strung along the top of the wall. The young men jumping up together caught the wires and fell dead at the foot of the wall. The incident is still fresh in the memory of New Yorkers in which a waiter, standing on the railing around the roof of the Metropolitan Concert Garden, clutched an arc light wire to save himself from falling, and Instantly killed by the shock, plunged headlong, a corpse, to the street below. Also, will be readily recalled the case of a workman of one of the arc light companies who, engaged in fixing the wires near Earle’s Hotel, was killed by the current. Even when accidents caused by contact with these electric wires have not fatal results they often have very serious con sequences. During the Paris Electrical Exhibition a gentleman was almost killed by stepping inadvertently upon a conducting wire and at the same time touching a lamp that formed part of the conducting system. In Brighton, England, the whole company manning a fire-escape machine were stunned, and one of them barely escaped with his life, in consequence of the escape, upon which they were mounted, coming in contact with an arc light wire that crossed the streej,

A little investigation of the subject will convince any disinterested person that the placing under ground of the arc light wires is a measure imperatively demanded by considerations of the public safety.

Mr. Van Cott, President of the Board of Fire Commissioners, said :

I have always, from the very start of this arc-light system for street illumination, been conscious of the dangers it involved, and have been opposed to allowing the wires for it to be strung up as they are all over the city. When the electric light people asked permission to run their wires on the Fire Department’s poles from Fourteenth street to Thirty-third street on Broadway, I voted against it. but both my colleagues voted for it. Mr. Gorman was very much in favor of it until one night the electric light wire touched a fire service wire and burned up the instrument in his house, very nearly burning the house, too. After that his enthusiasm on the subject of the electric light seemed to abate. A man who was connected with the Brush Company when they asked that permission of which I spoke tried very hard to change my views on the subject, but unsuccessfully. After a time he went out of the electric light business, and then, meeting him one day, I asked him if he did not think I had done rightly in opposing that permission. He replied that unquestionably f had, for the wires were very dangerous, and their proximity to the fire telegraph wires would imperil the usefulness of that most important public service. Over and over again those electric wires have done serious damage to our telegraph and telephone system. They have dtstroyed some twelve or fourteen street boxes four telephone instruments, and at least one office relay, but the mere pecuniary damage done by them to our apparatus is nothing compared with the gravity of the consideration that they are liable at any moment to cut ofi our facilities for receiving information of a fire, and our power to call out engines tor subduing a conflagration. The principal cause for these disturbances is want of perfect insulation of the electric light wires or the destruction of insulation at the point of contact if one of them touches another wire. Then the dynamo current of electricity, or a portion of it, will be diverted from its own conductor to the other wire, and through the circuit thus invaded to the earth. The force of such diverted current would depend entirely upon the resistance offered at the points of poor insulation, so that whatever instruments intervened in that portion of the fire service wires—should they be the ones invaded—would be affected according to the force of the current. Under the same conditions of contact of the wires or diversion of the current, let a human being touch the wires and a portion of the current would be taken from the wires and passed through the person to the earth, and it might easily occur that that current would have sufficient strength to kill. Or should a person take up an end of an arc light wire which had been broken, the opposite end having fallen to wet ground, or a metal roof, or otherwise having made connection with the earth, he would receive a shock of more or less severity, subject to the force of the current and the condition cf his own insulation from the ground. It might not be strong enough to destroy life, but the chances for such a result would be far too great to encourage frequent experiments of that nature.

BETTER FIRE PREVENTION NEEDED.

Every one who has studied the important question of fire losses^knows that they could be greatly reduced if more attention were directed to fire department matters, fire inspection, building construction and over-insurance. Although the evils exist and are well known, comparatively little Improvement is made. In the new sections of Chicago, Boston and New York, the fire losses are much smaller than they were years ago considering the greater value of merchandise and real estate. With a more careful study of these leading subjects, the natural increase of wealth would no longer be burdened by a proportionately increasing fire loss. The fixing of rates by the local exchanges is doing much to place the companies on a stronger footing and enable them better to withstand the steady drain of millions of fire losses each month. But it 1s the root of the evil which should be sought and eradicated. The study of prevention of fires and the application of the principles thus found would go a great way to help the insurance business, and above all tend to prevent the enrfrmous destruction of wealth which annually takes place. Not least among these is incendiarism. If such laws as govern fire insurance matters in France were duplicated by the United States, and insurance companies refused to pay losses to the insured on whose premises the fire originated, incendiarism would suddenly become unpopular. The extension of the local Fire Department, greater efficiency in the Fire Patrol and the introduction of automatic fire alarms and sprinklers would tend to decrease the expensiveness of each fire. The moral influence of the insurance company is in the direction of cure rather than prevention of fires. With the fire losses climbing up to the hundred millions a year, it is time to call a halt and examine the real conditions of the question. Already this year the estimated losses in this country alone have amounted to $74,063,058, and will, if they continue at the same rate for the remainder of the year, reach the total of $80,621,750 for 1883.—Standard.

A DOG ON A LADDER.

A gentleman who resides in this city has a very intelligent hunting dog—a setter. This animal can do almost anything except talk, and in dog language he can do that most effectually. One day his master was doing a bit 6f work on the roof of his house when he accidentally dropped his hammer. The dog, who was on the ground watching his master, seized the hammer in his teeth and advanced to the foot of the ladder, wagging his tail and looking up as much as to say, “ Here it is ; come and get it.” The gentleman, noticing the brute’s movements, said: ” Come, Don, fetch it up.” He did not suppose the animal would attempt to obey him. and was surprised to see the faithful dog place one paw carefully on the lower round of the ladder, then the other, and then to see him reach cautiously for the second round, next to bring one of his hind feet up, then the other, and so, carefully, while trembling all over, he mac his way to the top of the ladder and thence to the roof, where he laid the hammer at the feet of his master and wagged his tail in triumph. It was his first’attempt to climb a ladder, and he seemed to glory in the achievement. How to get him down was a conundrum for his master, who thought^he good-sized animal would be an awkward thing to carry down the ladder in his arms. He finally concluded to lower Don in a basket, and went down to procure the tackle. When he reached the ground he was surprised to see Don preparing to come down the same way he went up. But it appeared to be a little more difficult task, the ladder being nearly perpendicular. But by pressing his body hard against the side of the ladder, he steadied himself so as to get his feet on, and thus he went down as safely as he went up. After this feat he had a passion for climbing ladders.—Hartford Times.

THE DANGERS OF ELECTRIC LIGHTING.

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THE DANGERS OF ELECTRIC LIGHTING.

In treating of the danger of electric lighting, I intend to confine my remarks to the dangers, as they relate to the business in which we are engaged. Electric lights are now so rapidly being introduced into our largest stores, hotels, mills and manufacturing establishments, that it becomes the duty of underwriters to carefully examine into the question and, if danger exists, to take prompt and decided measures to guard against the same at every point. The N w York Board of Fire Underwriters, some months ago, delegated to their Committee on Origin of Fries this duty, and in their investigations, (which has occupied considerable time and attention, and which are now only partly performed) they discovered the evidence of existing and’threatened danger of a serious character. To guard against the same, the said board, upon the recommendation of their committee, adopted a preliminary standard of requirements for “electric light wires, lamps, etc,,” which will be amended and added to from time to time, as they learn more of the subject, and as necessity may demand, and I propose to take up this standard seriatim and give the reasons that actuate the committee in the recommendation of each requirement.

I. Wires to have fifty per cent excess of conductivity above the amount calculated as necessary for the number of lights to be supplied by the wire. It is currently reported that the several fires that occurred at the Paris Exhibition were mainly caused by the wires and contact of wires. If a wire has not conductivity sufficient to carry the current of electricity, the wire will become heated, and if insulated, will burn the insulation, and if not insulated, will burn whatever combustible substance it comes in contact with, and also consume the wire.

In some cases the committee found that electricians were either at a loss to calculate the amount required for a given number of lights, or were loth to give the measurement to insurance men, while in other cases electricians were very positive in their calculations, and were prepared to prove by tests that their statements were correct. The New York committee were not yet prepared to report as to the proper sized wires to be used in connection with the different sizes of generators, but hope at an early day to report a table giving the number of wire to be used in (he different machines graded by the generating power of the machines.

The 50 per cent, excess provided for in the standard was fixed at a low figure, and from a more careful study on this point, during the past thirty days, I am satisfied that this percen’age of excess is much too low to insure full protection from weak points in the wire. And to overcome resistance that may occur from accidental crossing of other wires, or contact with other conductors, I am assured by experienced electricians that if the conducting wire is two and a half time8 greater in weight per foot than the wire wound around the dynamo machine with which it is connected, then there will be ample excess to insure safety, and as this is one of the most important points in the entire equipment, so far as fire hazard is concerned, I think it would be only reasonable to require such conductors.

II. Wires to be thoroughly insulated and doubly coated with some approved material.

The N> w York committee were strongly in favor of recommending that noninflaroroable covering only should be used, but it was represented to them, and it has since been proved by tests, that some of the insulating compounds in themselves inflammable are better for electrical purposes, and until this particular point is better understood they recommend the use of such doubly covered insulators as shall be approved, and it is the intention of the committee to test as far as possible a sample of each wire submitted by applying to it a current of electricity greater than the amount calculated to be used, and also to ascertain by tests whether it will stand contact with conducting substances without burning.

The New York committee, through their inspector, found many of the wires, and, in fact, it may be said that most of the wires that were placed in buildings previous to the underwriters’ action in the matter, were without proper insulators, and some without any covering whatever, and if any underwriter has the least doubt as to the danger of such equipment, we would ask him to cross circuit such wires with one of a smaller size, and watch the result, but we would caution him 10 be very careful not to place himself in connection with the current by allowing any two parts cf his person to touch the conduetpr at the same time, as we will not be answerable for the damage if the current is a strong one.

Some covered wires are now in use that appear to be safe, but we firmly believe that if electric lights are to be permanent with us, the wire of the future must be different from any nowin use, for, in our opinion, full protection to life and property requires that the conductors of so strong an agent should not only be covered with a substantial insulator but, in addition, be firmly encased in a leaden pipe, or in some such manner protected from wear and friction.

III.-All wires to be securely fastened by some approved non-conducting fastening, and to be placed at least 2 A inches for incandescent lights and 8 inches for arc lights from each other, and 8 inches from all other wires and from all metal or other conducting substance, and to be placed in a manner to be thoroughly and easily inspected by surveyors.

When it becomes necessary to carry wires (through partitions and floors, they must be secured against contact with metal or other conducting substance, in a manner approved by the Inspector of the Board.

In the fastening of wires, the committee discovered great want of care in a number of our laiger mercantile and manufacturing establishments; wires have been found fastened to walls, ceilings, partitions, e*c, by metal staples, nails, etc., and as such equipment is apt to create a sudden and abnormal leakage of electrical current in the conductors from one wire to another, setting the intermediate wood and inflammable material on fire, they have provided for non-conducting fastenings only.

In three cases in this city, fire was caused by the electricity being conducted by metal staple of tin, which became heated to a degree that caused the wood underneath to bum. These cases were investigated by the New York committee and the Fire Marshal of the City of New York, and reported by him to the Fire Commissioners.

In one large establishment in this city, where the stock is of an inflammable nature, and where the total insurance is over $900,000, were found the wires of no less than four different dynamo-machines, of two different companies. Some of the wires of these machines were in use. Others found wires of the Telephone Company, the American District Telegraph, and the Mutual Telegraph Companies, and no proper precautions taken to prevent contact.

If these had been allowed to remain in the condition as found, the destruction of that establishment by fire would have been only a question of time.

The electric light companies are now substituting porcelain fastenings In lieu of metal staples, which the committee consider a decided improvement.

The distance prescribed, viz., 2% inches for incandescent light wires, and 8 inches for the arc, we are informed by electricians, is safe.

The reason for difference of distance in the two classes Is, that in the first named quantity is used at a low pressure and in the second the pressure of currentJi inteme, and we consider it proper to exact the distance of at least 8 inches between these and other conducting substance.

If we could be assured of the complete insulation of the wires or a perfect automatic cut-ofl in case of accident, a shorter distance might be allowed, and It will undoubtedly become necessary to make some exceptions to this rule, but where a wire is allowed to come nearer than 8 inches to any other conductor, the other conductor should be fully insulated at all points within 8 inches of the wire.

IV. All arc lights must be protected by glass globes enclosed at the bottom to effectually prevent sparks or particles of the carbons from falling from the lamps ; and in show windows, mills and other places where there are materials of an inflammable nature, chimneys with spark arresters shall be placed at the top of the globe. Open lights positively prohibited. The conducting frame work of chandeliers and lamps must be insulated and covered the same as wires.

The protection called for, in having globes enclosed at bottom, is so evident that we venture to say-no illuminating company will combat it-One witness at the Randolph mills investigation testified “ that fire had been kindled in the mill by sparks from the electric lights, and warps of yarn had been burned by them on different occasions,” and we have knowledge of several cases where the particles of burning carbons have fallen from the open globes, and damaged goods.

In this connection I am glad to be able to report that the illuminating companies have altered many of the lamps by inserting brass plates by effectually close the bottoms, and most of the new lamps are made tight at the base.

We consider it equally important to have the chimney or spark arresters, (called for in the standard) where there is a chance of any light inflammable material being blown or brought near the top of the lamp, and if the two last m-ntioned requirements are necessary, then no argument is needed as to the prohibition of open lights.

We have found open lights in use in several of our manufacturing establishments, (principally in machine shops) and under a rule of the Board, our inspectors requested, in each case, that the lights should be discontinued until globes with enclosed bottoms were provided, and the request was in each case complied with.*

The last clause in the requirement was found necessary, from the fact that on some lamps for arc lights and chandeliers for incandescent lights, the frame work is the condition of the currents, therefore this frame work should be iosolaled, for the same reasons as given for the insolation of wires.

V. Where electricity is conducted into a building from sources other than the building in which it was used a shut-off must be placed at the point of entrance to each building, and the supply turned off when the lights are not in use.

At a recent meeting ol the National Association of Fire Engineers, held at Richmond, Va., action was had urging upon authorities of cities and towns fhe absolute necessity of passing ordinances governing the manner in which all wires or electric lights shall be strung, and among the resolutions adopted at said meeting was the following:

“That there shall be placed upon the exterior of all buildings, wher* the wires are introduced an absolute “cut out” (not a mere shunt.) bo that in case Firemen are called by cause ot fire, to enter said buildings, the danger of instant death (the inevitable result of coming in contact with improperly Insulated or broken wires) under very many situations may be in a great measure avoided. We are aware that electricians claim that no such danger exists, if the wires are properly insulated, but we firmly believe that there is danger of firemen receiving a violent shock from contact with wires under .certain circumstances, and as it would be a great advantage and a safeguard to have such “ shut offs” we fail to see any particular injustice to the companies furnishing the electricity in this requirement.

One objection has been raised by the illuminating companies, that they would be obliged to have a meter for each building if this rule is enforced, and I am of the opinion that in the end both the producer and the consumer will be better satisfied by having a meter-and thank the underwriters for enforcing this requirement.

The action of the Fire Engineers-calls for our hearty endorsement.

One great source of danger that has already been the cause of several fires in this and other cities is the practice of running electric light wires through our streets on poles with other wires and over and on buildings where it is impossible to prevent contact with other wires. In one case a telephone instrument in a building was destroyed by its wire coming into contact with an electric wire in the street. In another case where the electric wire was fastened to a wooden cornice, covered with tin, the tin became so hot that the wood beneath was ignited, and in an interview with a representative of the company owning this wire I was assured that it was the heaviest coated insulated wire in use for street lights. About the same time the New York Fire Department alarm box No. 91, situated near the corner of William and Chambers streets,was fired by contact with an electric wire, and the machinery of the box destroyed, the point of contact as reported by the fire department being at the corner of Broadway and Pearl street, fully five blocks distant. In some of these cases the insulated covering was found worn off the wire, and we claim that the same will be likely to occur wherever there is friction. Another point has been notice d in connection with these cases, and that is that the majority have occurred during wet weather, and as water is known to be a conductor it shows the necessity of protecting electric wires from dampness.

The New York committee have not yet been able to arrive at any satisfactory plan to effectually guard against the great danger of this steel system, unless it be to require that machines shall be placed in some suitable armor and then buried In the ground, for as long as control is possible we must look for a repetition of cases similar to those mentioned, and they will be more numerous as the wires become older and worn. One illuminating company is now engaged in laying their street system, which consists of two copper wires or rods isolated from each other and from the heavy iron pipe in which they are enclosed, the whole buried about two feet In the ground. Each building to be lighted will be entered under the sidewalk by a service main to the meter, and from thence the current will be conducted upward through the building by a house main to the top of same, the service and house main being a fac-simile of the street main, differing only in s’ze. Insulated wires will connect with the house mains at each floor, and at each junction with the street main, service main, house main, and in fact at each connection up to the lamp socket at the base of the chandelier, the company propose to have an automatic fusible “cut oft,” called a safety catch, which they claim to be a complete “cut off,” in case of crossing of wires, accident to lamps, or any contact with conducting substance that may cause any increase of resistance or unduly heat the wires. In addition this company have agreed to give the New York committee full opportunity to test the safety of their-y>t* m in every particular before the current is turned in on the mains. As these te5*s have not yet been completed we are not prepared to fully endorse all that is cl imedby this company, but in our opinion it comes nearer to what we consider safety in electric lighting than anything thus far examined, and we wish we could report equal efforts to establish safeguards from fire by the other companies.

In some few cases circuits have been found grounded by the conducting wire being fastened to a gas or water pipe. This should never be allowed, for it largely increases the chances of the electric current being carried to the telephone wires, and by the latter to telephone instruments and causing fire in them, and the danger to be apprehended in grounding of wires is the fact that a bad joint in a gas pipe may be of such poor conductivity that the passage of a current of electricity in large volumes would be likely to heat the pipe red hot and ignite escaping gas. We are informed that the rays of a powerful arc light are so intense that if concentrated by a coarse lense or a concave reflector, the focus would be strong enough to set inflammable materials on fire, and if such be the case it has occurred to us that such on arc light may be capable of setting fite to goods by the focusing of its rays by the lense action of articles in a window, the glass of a window, or the globe itself, but we think there will be no danger from this hazard if the globe be of ground glass or porcelain. Competition among the electric light companies is already active, and as the struggle to secure custom the cost of equipment enters largely into the question, and is likely to result in the adoption of cheap and inferior materials, introduced in a careless manner by unskilled workmen. Underwriters should see that false economy is not practiced at their expense, and bear in mind that it is much earier to guard against dangers at the outset than the contingencies which will naturally follow the evils referred to, and the placing of the management of the electric machines and attachments in the hands of incompetent persons.

I have endeavored briefly to point out the defects in the system as far as I, in my official capacity as Chairman of the New York Committee have been able to discover and interpret them, and beg to say in conclusion that if the defects mentioned can be remedied, and of this I have not the slightest dcubr, and assuming that no new danger will be discovered, then we may expect to realize a decrease in our fire hazazd growing out of the use of this new agent of light and power, for it is in contemplation to substitute electric motors for steam power for light manufacturing, hoisting, pumping and other purposes, thereby removing a fruitful cause of fire, by superseding the necessity of many boilers and furnaces in warehouses and small factories. The electric motors will be supplied from central stations through the same channels as the lights, and will consist simply of an electro magnet with revolving armature.

Resolved, That the New York Bard standard requirements for electric lights, wires, etc., be referred to the Advisory Committee, with power to amend and add to the same as they may deem necessary, and when completed to issue the same as the standard of this Association, and urge upon the members to take immediate measures to have said amended standard adopted by the Local Boards throughout this country.