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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Guard 24/7…

Fire sprinkler systems are very important and unique fire protection systems that are silently on guard 24/7 in those facilities in which their present at. These vital fire fighting systems have a proven track record over the years, though they have one weak link to where they become unreliable. The one major draw back and deficiency if there is one is the lack of proper schedule inspection and maintenance. Miss use and not following fire codes are also factors that could hamper the proper functions of these important fire fighting systems.

Sprinkler systems have been used in the United States since 1874, and were use in factory applications where fires at the turn of the century were often catastrophic in terms of both human and property losses.

Persons working in the fire protection field need to have a general/working knowledge on how sprinkler systems operate. Property/facility owners need to ensure there’s regular schedule pressure readings, inspections, and maintenance of sprinkler systems. Following “Life Safety Codes” and fire ordinance/codes should also be adhered to with these systems.

The basic functions of a sprinkler systems is where a series of piping end with closed-head sprinklers we see along the ceiling area and the sprinkler head is held closed by either a heat-sensitive glass bulb or a two-part metal link (the most common) held together with a fusible alloy. Each sprinkler activates independently when the predetermined heat level is reached. There are four basic fire sprinkler system types found in the industry today that a fire fighter should be familiar with.

The wet pipe sprinkler system is the first and most common one often found then all other types. The wet pipe sprinkler systems are the most reliable type. Wet systems are simple and have water already present in the piping system. Once the heat temperature is reached to melt the fusible link on the sprinkler head, water is fighting the fire and keeping it in check.

Dry pipe sprinkler systems are where there’s no water present in the piping above the rise. The sprinkler riser is a point where the water is introduced into the system. These dry systems can be used in spaces in which temperatures may become cold enough to freeze the water in a wet pipe system. Dry pipe sprinkler systems are most often used in unheated buildings. The dry pipe sprinkler systems are the second most common type system used. Air is present in the pipe system above the riser clapper, and when a sprinkler head is open the air escapes allowing the clapper to open and introducing water into the system piping and to the open sprinkler head to fight fire.

The third type sprinkler system is the deluge system which has open sprinkler heads. There’s no water or air to hold the clapper at the riser down to prevent water from flowing into the above piping system at the riser. Instead there’s a mechanical latch valve called a deluge valve and it is opened only when a signal tells it to open from a specialized fire alarm system.

The final sprinkler system type is the pre-action sprinkler system which are hybrids of the wet, dry, and deluge systems depending on what is needed. The “per-action” that takes place is typically the action of heat or smoke detectors being activated which is the “pre” part. The “action” part is the water introduction into the system piping by opening the clapper which is mechanically latched.

Two other types of special sprinkler systems are the foam and water spray systems. These systems are used where special hazards occupancies are associated with and are designed to protect a uniquely configured hazard.

Sprinkler systems are a proven fire protection system that works. Sprinkler systems are credited each year for quickly extinguishing fires. At a recent fire where the cause of the blaze that was accidental from spontaneous heating, “It was believed that without the fire suppression sprinkler system this building would have sustain major fire damage….” A fire at a Best Buy in Okemos that was “…believed to have started from a electrical malfunction in the store’s back storage area…The fire was contained to the store’s electrical room after a sprinkler system extinguished the blaze.” In Charlotte, N.C. in an apartment fire, “…the fire appeared to have started in a unit on the eighth floor and was contained by the sprinkler system.” These are just a few examples of fire protection systems that were on guard 24/7 and did what they were suppose to do.

Here is a YouTube video of a side-by-side room display set up at the Plymouth Massachusetts Fire Department on May 29, 2009. Sprinklers had been installed in only one of the rooms. Both rooms were set on fire. Fire sprinklers are designed to activate when a certain degree of heat increase is reached, so as the temperature in the display went up, the sprinklers went off. As seen in this demonstration, the fire in the sprinkled room was controlled quickly by overhead sprinklers. In contrast, the fire in the room without sprinklers burned out of control until the fire department put out the fire.

I have been around these types of types sprinkler systems throughout my past US Air Force Fire Protection career as a fire fighter specialist. The industrial plant where I work currently, which has a fire protection requirement both Fire Brigade and ARFF wise, I find myself once again around an old dependable fire protection system that has enable me to learn even more there is to learn about the fire service. It’s my shift’s month to take the weekly riser reading to ensure these important fire protection systems stand ready to act when called upon to do so. They may not have all the bright lights and shinny chrome that a fire truck may have. But, a sprinkler system is worth it’s weight in gold when it goes into operation and works the way it was designed to. Only through proper care of the sprinkler system itself will it stand on guard 24/7.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Magnificent Desolation"

“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind" Neil Armstrong

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fire Safety: Simple and Basic Prevention Steps

Fire can start and engulf a structure in a matter of minutes before the fire departmet arrives. Knowing and understanding the basic characteristics of fire and learning the proper safety/fire prevention practices can be the key to surviving a house or building fire.


Install smoke detectors. Check them once a month and change the batteries at least once a year. Develop and practice an escape plan. Make sure all family members know what to do in a fire. * Draw a floor plan with at least two ways of escaping every room.

* Choose a safe meeting place outside the house.

* Practice alerting other household members. It is a good idea to keep a bell and a flashlight in each bedroom for this purpose.

* Practice evacuating the building blindfolded. In a real fire situation, the amount of smoke generated by a fire will most likely make it impossible to see.

* Practice staying low to the ground when escaping.

* Feel all doors before opening them. If the door is hot, get out another way.

* Learn to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if clothes catch fire.

Post emergency numbers near telephones. However, be aware that if a fire threatens your home, you should not place the call to your emergency services from inside the home. It is better to get out first and place the call from somewhere else.

Purchase collapsible ladders at hardware stores and practice using them.

Install A-B-C type fire extinguishers in the home and teach family members how to use them.

Do not store combustible materials in closed areas or near a heat source.

Cooking: Keep the stove area clean and clear of combustibles such as bags, boxes, and other appliances. If a fire starts, put a lid over the burning pan or use a fire extinguisher. Be careful. Moving the pan can cause the fire to spread. Never pour water on grease fires.

Check electrical wiring. Replace wiring if frayed or cracked. Make sure wiring is not under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas. Do not overload outlets or extension cords. Outlets should have cover plates and no exposed wiring. Only purchase appliances and electrical devices that have a label indicating that they have been inspected by a testing laboratory such as Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).

Contact your local fire department or American Red Cross chapter for more information on fire safety.


Get out as quickly and as safely as possible.

Use the stairs to escape.

When evacuating, stay low to the ground.

If possible, cover mouth with a cloth to avoid inhaling smoke and gases.

Close doors in each room after escaping to delay the spread of the fire.

If in a room with a closed door:

* If smoke is pouring in around the bottom of the door or it feels hot, keep the door closed.

* Open a window to escape or for fresh air while awaiting rescue.

* If there is no smoke at the bottom or top and the door is not hot, then open the door slowly.

* If there is too much smoke or fire in the hall, slam the door shut. Call the fire department from a location outside the house.


Give first aid where appropriate.

Seriously, injured or burned victims should be transported to professional medical help immediately.

Stay out of damage buildings.

Return home only when local fire authorities say it is safe.

Look for structural damage.

Discard food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot.

Contact insurance agent.

Do not discard damaged goods until after an inventory has been taken. Save receipts for money relating to fire loss.

Heating devices such as portable heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces demand safe operation. Use portable heaters in well-ventilated rooms only. Refuel kerosene heaters outdoors only. Have chimneys and wood stoves cleaned annually. Buy only approved heaters and follow the manufacturers' directions.

Smoke detectors more than double the chance of surviving a fire. Smoke detectors sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air. They can detect both smoldering and burning fires. At least one smoke detector should be installed on every level of a structure. Test the smoke detectors each month and replace the batteries at least once a year. Purchase smoke detectors labeled by the Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why We Do It!

The Desire to Serve - The Ability to Perform - The Courage to Act.

That Is All! Be Fire Safe!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fire Safety: Fireworks Responsibility!

As we enter into the 4th of July Holiday Weekend it is a given each year that fire works of some kind will be used. It’s an American tradition, just like lighting the BBQ for those hot dogs and hamburgers. Celebrating is a very fun thing when doing it safely. Safety with fire works if your going to use them comes down to two words, that being common sense. Safety in anything we do is a very simple practice. Think of what your doing and don’t endanger others when you do it.

According to the NY State’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control possession of consumer fireworks are dangerous and illegal is the state of New York. A warning about the dangers of fireworks and the injuries they cause each year is, theoretically, unnecessary. However, we all know that many people across New York State that will choose to overlook the law and use them illegally during various private celebrations.

So, if you choose to use fireworks this weekend, lets use the common sense of being safe. Here a YouTube video on Fireworks Safety…

Here are some common sense tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety. Remember that kids really shouldn’t play with or shoot fireworks. If you give a kid a sparkler, know that they burn at 1800 degrees, hot enough to melt gold. Keep sparklers away from the face, clothing, and hair. Some of the best products to let children feel involved are “snappers” which are affordable and save.

* Make sure to buy only legal fireworks - those are the ones with the manufacturers label on them.

* Never try to make your own fireworks. The process is dangerous and may blow up in your face (literally).

* Stay away from others lighting or using fireworks - some types, bottle rockets, chasers, etc., can backfire or go the opposite direction.

* Light one firework at a time. Never try to relight a dud.

* Point fireworks away from homes. If possible set them off in a mown field away from homes, trees, brush, or other flammable substances. It is estimated that some 60,000 responses are made each year to firework related fires. Soak fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them away.

* Never throw or point fireworks at someone.

* Lastly, always pick up the fireworks you shoot. A neighborhood has a tough enough time keeping itself clean without all the mess fireworks make.

If you are going to use consumer fireworks, preparation before hand, just in case, have all items in place if something bad does happen. Here are a few common sense fire safety YouTube videos that explain some basic precautions to do before using fireworks...

Fire Safety is a very simple and important thing to do as well as practice everyday. Lets have the common sense of mind to practice so that you are ensured a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July to all and make it Fire Safe.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My First Fire Reporting Blog Post!

The missus, that would be the wife, is always getting on me for not throwing out stuff of old that I have and collected over the years. Guess that would make me the typical other half. I wanted to say “better” but I better call it like it is. lol : )

Today is sort of a fire protection anniversary or sorts for me. Nine years ago today the so called “Big One” happen and I was part of the fire ground operations for it. I wrote about it afterwards and posted it on a Yahoo home web page I had at the time. I even had pictures to accompany the article. Was a “look at me, look at me, and see what I did!” lol Didn’t think about it at the time and only recently did I realize it was for the most part my very first blog post even though I didn’t have a blog. I found a copy of what I wrote, it’s titled “My Summer 2000 Most Memorable Moment…,” and figure it would be a good addition to my on go Tioga Fire Protection and Fire Prevention blog.

So here it is…

My Summer 2000 Most Memorable Moment...

We got the call early Saturday morning, 1 July 2000 at 0210 hrs.. Our response was called out as a mutual-aid call to Owego, for a fire in a third floor apartment located in a section of buildings in Owego's Historical River Row. We were asked to dispatch one pumper w/full crew (4 member fire fighters) to the scene, where we were put right to work.

Fire ground operations were in an "Offensive Mode" upon arrival. I and another fellow member fire fighter went and assisted two Owego fire department (OFD) fire fighters. We were packed out w/SCBAs, and all went up OFD's aerial ladder. I advanced a hand line up the aerial and assisted in venting roof. Other fire department crews, packed out w/SCBAs, including two of my fellow member fire fighters were inside combating fire on third floor with hand lines.

Picture of me advancing a 1 3/4" hand line to roof area to cover and assist in ventilation operation being conducted.

About 20-30 minutes after getting on the roof we had a 4'x4' hole in the roof venting while other fire fighting crews were combating fire that was now extending into several drop ceilings on third floor. I and other fire fighters on the roof started to notice the roof getting spongy and informed fire command of situation and that we were coming back down off of roof. Halfway down the ladder we heard the sounding of all sirens & air horns to pull all fire fighter crews out of building.

Command made the call to sound the alarm to get all fire fighters out of building. Five minutes after all crews were out of building and off roof the fire punched through the roof and then the third floor became part of second floor when 3rd floor collapsed.

One of my fellow member fire fighters that was on the third floor combating the fire with other responding fire crews told me later at "Rehab", fire fighting crews inside the building saw that the fire was getting out of control once it got up into the false ceiling, and the fire started to run the length of this section of build. Thus the reason for the spongy roof we felt up on the roof.

In this picture I'm observing fire fighting operation after coming down off the roof with a fellow member fire fighter wearing red helmet. I'm the one still wearing the Scott Air Pac, and after coming off the roof fire command made the call to go to a "Defensive Mode." The right call at the right moment.

Fire operations were now in a "Defensive Mode" and the game plan was to keep fire contain to this building with a now collapsed 3rd floor in a building section of a row of 2-4 interconnected buildings. The fire fighting operation now included two aerial ladder companies, a bucket aerial all in master stream operations in front of building. "Surround & Drown" you could say. In the back of these row of buildings is the Susquehanna river which drafting operation were taking place up the road to provide water to help out with hydrants that were tapped into in the area at this point. There were around 10+ fire departments on scene with a total of 150-175 fire fighters from Tioga & Broom Counties. This fire was what you could use the term "The Big One" too. Biggest structural operation I've ever been involve in.

My fire department crew and I were out for about 8+ hours for this fire after getting relieved by another fire department. Nobody was hurt at all, both fire fighter and persons living in 2nd & 3rd floor apartments, which made for a successful fire ground operation when you consider all that was involved.

... So there it is, my first blog posting some nine years ago and with pictures too! I remember this fire each year about this time as yes being “The Big One,” but what strikes me most is that no injuries occurred during the length of the fire ground operations. Safety, fire fighters looking out for other fire fighter and being able to walk away knowing we all did the best we could. Like I said at the end of the article, “…a successful fire ground operation…”. Yes there was structural loss and damage, but there wasn’t any life loss! Even better yet no fire fighter injuries! I’ll take one of those fire fighting operations any day of the week.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

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