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.building valued at $25,000 as it does in a building worth $100,000; and that in buildings of small value it frequently happens that the reduction in the fire rate brought about by the installation of automatic sprinklers will not show a remunerative return on the capital invested. Mr. Frederick C. Moore states that "an ordinary risk will expend $3,000 to $5,000, and large ones ten times as much. There are comparatively few risks equipped carrying less than $40,000 insurance. The average amount of insurance per risk for 126 thus equipped was $251,182."
But to regard the value of fire-preventive appliances in this light only is a short-sighted policy. Although not securing a direct return on the capital invested, many owners of moderate sized buildings are, nevertheless, entirely willing to introduce such sprinklers. They wish to avoid that great loss, so frequently overlooked, which consists of the inconvenience, the loss of time, the loss of business to competitors and its general demoralization, which is inseparably connected with every large fire. To such property owners the avoidance of such losses represents a cash value of far greater importance than a mere good investment return on the money expended. It should not be forgotten, however, that in addition to the security from loss of time and business which the property owner has bought by installing a fire-preventive appliance like the automatic sprinkler, he also secures the saving indicated by the rating schedules commonly used. This saving is a very material one, as may be seen at a glance if we consult the Universal Mercantile Schedule used in the large cities of the East. Assuming that 80 per cent coinsurance is carried, the schedule permits a reduction in the building and stock rates for mercantile risks of approximately 40 per cent of the rate, if the best type of automatic sprinkler is used, if the equipment is in compliance with the standards of the underwriters having jurisdiction as regards the number and location of sprinklers, size of pipes, feed mains, valves, fittings, etc., and if connected with at least two approved independent water supplies, one of which must be automatic, in addition to approved outside connection for the city fire department. For special hazards the reduction in the rate generally amounts to from 50 to 60 per cent and even more, because of the existence of such sprinklers. If desiring a system, it is customary for the property owner to apply to the insurance organization of his locality, which will suggest to him in writing the plan and requirements of the system; and on the basis of this the owner can receive estimates from contractors as to the cost of the work. The owner may also ascertain the cost of insurance under the new conditions, and may thus calculate the saving he will derive from the reduction in premiums as compared with the cost of the system.
Where the building is of large size and value, the gain to be derived from the installation of a sprinkler system consists not only of the saving in loss of time and business in case of fire, but also a saving in the fire rate so large as to net an extraordinary return on the capital used. The manager of a large automatic sprinkler installation company states that he has cases on record where the saving in the total rate on. the building was so large as to practically pay for the cost of the sprinkler service in two years and one day—i.e., by the time the third premium was paid. And here it should be remembered that the life of a sprinkler system, if properly cared for, is estimated to be at least from twenty-five to thirty years.
A case at hand may be cited as 'an illustration of the saving which may be effected by the owners of certain buildings if they introduce fire-preventive appliances. The building in question—a factory in Massachusetts for the manufacture of elevator and warehouse materials—was valued at approximately $350,000, and had an area of approximately 50,000 square feet. The fire rate on the building when not provided with a sprinkler service was $1.50 per $100 of insurance, thus giving a total premium of $5,250, if the building was fully insured. The automatic sprinkler service, which the firm supplying this data was to introduce, provided a sprinkler for each 75 square feet of area in the building, or approximately a total of 666 sprinklers for the 50,000 square feet of area to be covered. The total cost of each sprinkler was $8 per head, including the provision for water supply, or a total cost of $5,328 for the 666 sprinklers. With this sprinkler service in existence, however, the rate on the building was to be reduced 60 per cent; that is to say, the total premium, if the building was fully insured, instead of being $5,250, was to be only $2,100, thus showing a saving of $3,150.
THE PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION OP BUILDINGS
The prevention of the spread of fire, after it has once obtained a good start, depends primarily upon the construction and planning of the building. From the standpoint of fire prevention, buildings are usually grouped into four main classes, viz., fireproof, semi-fireproof, slow-burning, and ordinary buildings. As regards each of these the greatest care should be exercised in planning the building. Available fire protection, such as fire-service tanks, pumps, boilers, etc., should be considered when determining the height and depth of a building. Elevators and stairways should not be located in inaccessible places, and all communications between floors should be so protected that fire may not seek these avenues in spreading throughout the building. Special hazards, such as the heating plant, should be properly isolated, and light and air should be secured without creating unnecessary exposure and draft. If the nature of the business permits, the risk should also be subdivided into several fire areas, and the most dangerous processes in the business located where they will do the least harm to the rest of the plant or to the stock.
Fireproof Buildings.—A fireproof building may be said to possess four chief features. It should be of steel cage construction, and should have all of its structural members safely insulated against heat from within or without the building, or they may be of reinforced concrete construction with the reinforcing members properly insulated. All communications between floors for freight or passengers, such as stairways and elevators, should be encased in fireproof, cut-off shafts, and all horizontal tiers of windows should be fitted with wire glass in fireproof frames. A "fireproof" building should be designed so as to isolate each floor from all the others in case of fire, and if used for the storing of combustible materials should be so constructed that the contents on any floor may burn with the least danger to the building, and with the least possibility of the fire spreading to other floors. If the horizontal tiers of windows are not fitted with wire glass, the chances are that a fire on a given floor, since it cannot go up or down, owing to the fireproof construction and the protected floor communications, will be forced out through the windows, and will thus communicate to upper stories through the tiers of windows immediately above.
It is needless to say that a great many buildings called "fireproof" are not fireproof at all, and it is interesting to note how many well-informed people are imbued with the belief that non-inflammable things are fireproof, and that a fireproof building gives this characteristic to its contents. On the contrary, it is the common assertion that goods in fireproof buildings will burn fiercely—in fact, will, in many instances, burn more fiercely than when situated in other buildings. Because of this fact, it is highly important that the floors of a fireproof building should be carefully separated. This fact cannot be too strongly emphasized. Mr. P. C. Moore, in his "Fire Insurance and How to Build," remarks: "It is probable that few subjects connected with construction are more generally misunderstood than the fireproof building. The average individual regards iron and stone as fireproof. He, at the same time, overlooks the fact, strangely enough, that glass windows are not fire resisting. Even underwriters, in estimating rates on fireproof buildings and their contents, often overlook the fact that a building intended to be fireproof, but offering nothing more substantial as a fire shield against an outside fire than ordinary plate glass in a wooden sash and frame, is even more likely to have its contents thoroughly destroyed by exposure to fire than an ordinary building of wooden joisted construction; for the fireproof structure, as already stated, holds its merchandise and other contents suspended where they will be the more effectually destroyed. The wooden joisted building, on the other hand, will probably collapse, and no small salvage may be realized out of heaps of merchandise in the cellar, so covered up that combustion would be retarded for want of air, on the same principle that a pile of wood shavings is seldom invaded by fire to a greater depth than ten or twelve inches. A further reason why the contents of fireproof buildings are so thoroughly destroyed when once ignited is that the fireproof construction, like a reverberating furnace or oven, confines the heat until extremely high temperatures are reached. Indeed, firemen who have had experience in fighting fires in fireproof buildings claim that it is almost impossible to remain on a floor where merchandise is on fire, so intense is the combustion. Everything ignitable is shriveled up. The principal advantage, therefore, of a fireproof building is the separation of the various stories from each other, and this may be largely, if not entirely, lost if the building has well-holes, or if staircases and elevators are not cut off in fireproof hallways.''1