The Importance of Standards in Fire Equipment Manufacture
The following are excerpts from an address by A. R. Small, vice-president, Underwriters’ Laboratories, read before the Western Association of Electrical Inspectors, at their annual meeting held in Memphis, Tenn.:
The Underwriters’ Laboratories’ part in the great war is a part of two phases or divisions. The first and original part, a close analysis at the present time will show, is the greatest part that we are playing in the war. I refer to the Standards of Underwriters’ Laboratories. I had the pleasure of addressing a meeting in Chicago a couple of months ago, a meeting of manufacturers of acetylene appliances, and entertain them, I hope, for a few moments with the thought that the work which the Underwriters’ Laboratories has previously done in cooperation with manufacturers, electrical inspectors and others in the preparation and operation of standards had quite a significance in connection with carrying on the war. I reported to the audience and will take up your time in reporting to you the value to the United States government of work which has been done at Underwriters’ Laboratories since 1914 in cooperation with the manufacturers of cotton rubber-lined fire hose.
Specifications for Hose.
Several members of the staff devoted a great deal of time in that year to a careful analysis of existing specifications for fire hose, such as used in municipal fire departments and also in private plants. An agreement was reached with the manufacturers and others interested officially as to a common specification for fire hose. That specification was put into force and gradually was applied in the factories of twelve principal manufacturers of fire hose in this country. On August 15, 1917, the quartermaster’s department of the United States Army concluded that it wanted fire hose in the new training camps and wanted it at once. Its attention was called to the standards which Underwriters’ Laboratories had prepared and promulgated and to the work which manufacturers of fire hose had been doing with the Laboratories, with the result that the quartermaster’s department telegraphed twelve manufacturers of fire hose inquiring as to when they could begin to ship fire hose conforming to this specification and labeled by Underwriters’ Laboratories. On the 22nd of August, seven days after the department realized its need of fire hose, the twelve factories began to ship and before the 15th day of November twelve factories had shipped in excess of one million feet of 2 1/2-inch single jacket fire hose to each one of the sixteen principal cantonments for the National Army and to each one of the training camps for the National Guard. The manufacturers of fire hose were prepared. The reason they were prepared was because this standard had been worked out long previous to the war and in this particular case had been applied in their plants. As you know, it is the policy of the government to send its own inspectors to every factory where government materials are being manufactured. It was not necessary in this case for the government to enlist, train, equip and send to twelve factories twelve or more new inspectors who had to be broken into the work of examination and testing of fire hose. The inspectors of Underwriters’ Laboratories were already active in these plants, examining and testing fire hose to be shipped to the municipal fire departments and to the plants of private property owners. As a result, the manufacturers were able to start in immediately with the production of hose along a schedule with which they were already familiar, having the work supervised by an inspector already acquainted with the peculiarities of fire hose and the things which it is necessary to watch in testing it. Each 50-foot length of this more than 1,000,000 feet of fire hose was subjected to a pressure of 300 pounds at the factory, its elongation from ten pounds up to 300 pounds being measured, lengths having excessive elongation or otherwise not conforming to specifications being rejected. In one case our inspector one morning turned down 20,000 feet of hose and the manufacturer had no trouble in convincing himself that the inspector’s action was proper.
Similiarly in the case of insulated wires, at the beginning of the war the navy department decided it wanted 3,000,000 feet of 14 duplex, lead covered and it wanted it quickly and it wanted it to be tested. There again through Standards of Underwriters’ Laboratories it was not necessary for the navy to train a crew of new inspectors to go into twenty-six factories and learn how to inspect goods at the cost, of delay in shipping them out. Our inspectors at the wire plants were thoroughly familiar with all of the problems in examining and testing lead-covered cable and the material was delivered to the navy department with the very least possible delay.
The other phase of Underwriters’ Laboratories’ part in the great war is one which I feel that we have very little right to brag about, because every one of you, every one everywhere, every loyal citizen, every corporation or organization composed of loyal citizens is taking a similar part in this great war. Out of a staff of 120 people at the Chicago, out of a staff of 26 additional people, I think it is, at the Pittsburgh, New York and Boston offices we have on our service flag 31 stars.
In Touch with Government.
We are in constant touch with one or the. other departments in Washington. It is my own privilege to correspond with some engineer of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, some engineer of the Quartermasters’ Department, some representative of the Fleet Corporation almost daily, sometimes several times each day, giving them what information is available in our records and from the experience of the members of our staff on almost everything from oxygen acetylene welding or cutting plants to roll roofing, from rubber hose to methods of testing molded insulation, from actual factorv inspection work on cartridge enclosed fuses to how to install a fire door. Many large depots for the storage of ammunition of one kind and another are being erected in France and here. Each one of these depots has a number of tin-clad doors on them to prevent the spread of fire from one depot to another. These doors are all hung with Underwriters’ Laboratories’ standard fire door hardware. The doors themselves are all Underwriters’ Laboratories’ standard, are inspected at the factory and labeled. Very often the government has need for special information as to how this or that particular form of device will work. There have been a number of serious fires in warehouses of different kinds and it is now planned to equip all government plants with a special form of fire extinguisher. The installation of automatic sprinkler equipment, I understand, has been considered as too expensive, but a special form of fire extinguisher is to be installed in each one of them. The engineers of Underwriters’ Laboratories are being consulted daily as to how fire extinguishing appliances can properly be applied in these warehouses for their protection. Manufacturers of hand extinguishers are working night and day turning out standard appliances which are inspected, tested and labeled by the Underwriters’ Laboratories before these devices are accepted by the Quartermaster’s Department or the Navy Deparment for delivery. Each member of the staff of the Chicago office has an opportunity in some way to serve directly. Many of us feel that we would like opportunity to serve more directly. I presume in that feeling we are in no way different from any one of you in your own business.