PDA

View Full Version : fire safety/prevention in barns- why no sprinklers?



skip916
May. 31, 2011, 11:17 PM
After the devastating news about Boyd's team losing six horses this morning, I felt just sort of ill about it all day and as I was having dinner with a non-horsey friend, I was explaining what had happened and why this was such an incredible blow to the entire horse community.

He works in construction building multi-family housing, and he said "Why on earth doesn't code require all new barns to have heat sensors/sprinkler systems? You would think especially barns with horses worth that much money would have them?" (He wasn't implying ANY sort of negligence on anyone's part, he is simply used to complying to the myriad of fire prevention/suppression codes and requirements he sees when building apartments and his knowledge of horses is limited to thinking that they are insanely expensive)

I didn't really have an answer for him other than that it must be incredibly cost prohibitive, since I can't think of a single barn I have ever seen with a fire suppression system of any sort, even REALLY incredible bazillion dollar barns.

He got me thinking, why don't more people install sprinklers or heat sensors etc.? Is there something I am not thinking of besides cost? The fire at True Prospect is the third fire I can think of with horse casualties in the last few months, and is literally every horseman's nightmare. What, if any, methods are there to install fire suppression systems in barns?

hosspuller
May. 31, 2011, 11:56 PM
Sprinkler systems have to be in heated areas. If they freeze, they cause huge water damage. Air or antifreeze filled systems are expensive or maintenance intensive...

Lastly, most important and most expensive part...
water supply ... a barn has a lot of fuel and area. The water supply has to be able to deliver enough volume and pressure. Think of how much good a garden hose will be if your hay storage was on fire. Not much... Even a city water main can't do it alone. A fire pump and / or a tank is required. It all adds up to more than the barn cost to build.

hosspuller
Jun. 1, 2011, 12:01 AM
One more thing. Apartments and commercial buildings have fire doors and fire walls to control the spread of a fire. That feature helps reduce the amount of water supply required. A barn fire spreads very quickly through open spaces and lots of hay, wood, shavings, cob webs, etc.

LittleblackMorgan
Jun. 1, 2011, 07:41 AM
Sprinkler systems have to be in heated areas. If they freeze, they cause huge water damage. Air or antifreeze filled systems are expensive or maintenance intensive...

Actually, a dry system is far less expensive to both install and maintain, as well as repair...

Otherwise, hoss is pretty spot on. The main reason most barns don't have a system is because of the cost of installation. Retrofitting can be a sheer nightmare, when one does install a system and there is a well as opposed to public water, THAT is an issue within itself, as the water pressure is a needed factor in the suppression.

The NFPA and the life safety code are there to protect the lives of humans, not animals. What it comes down to is local code enforcement. The fire marshal has the last and final say in issuing a certificate of occupancy. He can tell you that sprinklers aren't needed-he can also MAKE you install them.
Barns, by all right, are considered a hazardous location (if you want to split hairs about it). By definition, they contain flammable dust which i believe is a Class 1 Div 1 (I could be wrong, I haven't cracked open my code book in a while). BUT the clincher is that it's not an industrial/commerial space, per se.


People that have, for whatever reason, chosen to not have heat detectors that are programmed into a fire panel are simply playing a waiting game. I've had convos with clients that want smoke detectors-the dust proof variety-in the barn. Despite my strongest recommendations, they used em anyways (and now owe the FD a lot of money for false alarms).

For me personally, when I built a barn, I will have a dry system installed code or no code, as well as heat detectors programmed into my fire alarm panel.

(FYI, I manage a mid-sized life safety company. Fire suppression and detection is our specialty)

Guilherme
Jun. 1, 2011, 07:57 AM
Littleblack, assuming a 16 stall barn (used in a standard boarding operation) what would be cost of a mid-range dry sprinkler system? I recognize that this will be a range of values but what general value range are we looking at?

What are the minimum input water pressures necessary for the system to work? If input pressures are inadequate (from either a municipal system or well/spring system) are there any "booster" systems that can be used? What kind of price range in involved?

In your experience what kind of insurance impact does a system that meets industry standards have?

Thanks for your time.

G.

carolprudm
Jun. 1, 2011, 08:03 AM
IMHO fire PREVENTION is much more effective than detection and suppression.

http://www.pennsylvaniaequestrian.com/news/barn-fire-safety.php


http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=17269

and the long version
http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/ub034.pdf

fivehorses
Jun. 1, 2011, 08:04 AM
what is a dry system?
and can it be used in climates where a barn could be below freezing for an extended amount of time(like jan and feb).
thanks

ladybugred
Jun. 1, 2011, 09:30 AM
This is a great thread, very sad incident that promted it.

I, too, am interested in the info Guilherme & 5H requested.

Thanx


LBR

LittleblackMorgan
Jun. 1, 2011, 09:42 AM
IMHO fire PREVENTION is much more effective than detection and suppression.

http://www.pennsylvaniaequestrian.com/news/barn-fire-safety.php


http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=17269

and the long version
http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/ub034.pdf

In a perfect world, Carol, prevention IS the key. But sh&t happens. Hay, shavings, grain dust are all VERY combustable. As are spider webs as we all know. One lightning strike and POOF. One arc. It happens, it really does.
Early detection is the key to saving lives and property. Personally, I think all public barns should have a masterbox and/or digital radio backup direct to the local FD, but that is another bag of tricks all together.

skip916
Jun. 1, 2011, 09:43 AM
thanks so much for the info so far hoss and lbm- makes a lot of sense about the temps., water pressure etc.

will pass this thread on to my friend and thanks for taking the time lbm to explain about what some good options for barns are

LittleblackMorgan
Jun. 1, 2011, 09:45 AM
what is a dry system?
and can it be used in climates where a barn could be below freezing for an extended amount of time(like jan and feb).
thanks

Dry systems are the ideal in cold climates. The basic gist of it is that instead of water under pressure in the pipelines, you have compressed air. The air builds pressure on the water, when released the water comes out. There is no water IN the pipes until a head blows.

Going the wet system way (with water in the pipes) requires glycol, which is antifreeze. Glycol is expensive and naturally dilutes in 10 years. It's not hazardous to human or animal.

Grataan
Jun. 1, 2011, 09:55 AM
My new barn has sprinklers in the stall barns, in the show stall barns, and in the arenas (have to say loving the new place but that's another thread)

They deliberately made the stall barns smaller and separate (as apposed to having one large 120 stall barn) and separate hay/shavings storage in order to further minimize risk.

LittleblackMorgan
Jun. 1, 2011, 09:56 AM
Littleblack, assuming a 16 stall barn (used in a standard boarding operation) what would be cost of a mid-range dry sprinkler system? I recognize that this will be a range of values but what general value range are we looking at?

What are the minimum input water pressures necessary for the system to work? If input pressures are inadequate (from either a municipal system or well/spring system) are there any "booster" systems that can be used? What kind of price range in involved?

In your experience what kind of insurance impact does a system that meets industry standards have?

Thanks for your time.

G.

RE: How much $?
Well, "it depends" is the best answer I can give you. We install systems based on the square footage of the building. Including second/third floors. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration; is there a tack/grain/hay room? How big are the stalls? Do you have a hay loft? How far apart are the heads? (meaning, do you want heads in the aisles only, or one in each stall, or both?) all these things add up, as the steel piping is expensive (actually, its the couplers that add up more!). Is there water out in the barn or is it outside of it (like a pump?)
We use a formula (which I cannot disclose) based on all of these factors.

There isn't a "midrange" system. It is or it isn't, its pretty black and white. To retrofit is the most expensive-you need to have a suppression engineer involved. Building that into your construction cost is much easier than adding after the fact.

Re:water pressure. Assuming this is a well, a tank could be used. I do not know the answer about the pressure-when we do a flow test, 160 gpm is the most common rate I have seen. I am not aware of any device to increase pressure, but sometimes a compressor is used and if the pressure drops, it kicks on and repressurizes.

On the insurance front, certainly fire sprinklers are going to lower your rates. You become less of a risk to the company. BUT one needs to remember that DETECTION is going to be your first defense-it is much easier to detect a fire than suppress or contain one.

For referance, we quoted a 4-5 stall barn (I forget the actual size) for a retrofit dry system. I believe it was in the 5k range.

All the information I have on sprinkler systems is gleaned from working in the field with my sprinkler foreman and asking LOTS of questions. My personal specialty is fire alarms and fire extinguishers. Fire alarms and sprinkler systems tie in together.

I will ask my foreman about the pressure questions.

philosoraptor
Jun. 1, 2011, 10:07 AM
Another vote for prevention. Cheapo box fans not designed for use in barn settings are a pet peeve of mine. Smoking in the barn, stacking damp hay, and poorly maintained wiring can also trigger a fire. A neighbor lost his massive historic bank barn a few years ago because he parked a tractor, hot from working in the field, in the upper floor presumably too close to his hay. With the size of that barn and the amount of combustible material in it, my gut feeling is that a fire suppression system might've slowed it but it would not have stopped it. Luckily in his case there were no animals or people inside.

My answer to fire prevention: I don't stall horses unless there is some good medical reason to do so. If something does catch fire, nobody is trapped inside. I'm also a fan of having exterior doors on every stall so there's 2 ways in/out of each stall. People don't realize how fast barn fires move and how much smoke and carbon monoxide is produced. Horses can die before the flames ever reach the stalls. People who try to run back inside to let horses out risk passing out -- or even dying.

poltroon
Jun. 1, 2011, 03:49 PM
Here in California, where water is scarce and where we're less concerned about snow preventing the movement of hay from a separate building over to the horses, it's most often going to be more practical to build a new barn out of fireproof materials - metal or cinder block - rather than try to plan on sprinklers. As long as there's not a stockpile of hay, there won't be much in the way of fuel to create a problem.

hosspuller
Jun. 1, 2011, 08:14 PM
Most of what you want to know about sprinkler systems is here >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_sprinkler_system

LBM ... When I was responsible for industrial fire systems, the dry systems were far more trouble and expensive to maintain. In a power failure, the loss of air pressure caused much trouble and ache. If not properly handled, they caused a false alarm and wet socks. :sadsmile:

LittleblackMorgan
Jun. 2, 2011, 10:34 AM
Most of what you want to know about sprinkler systems is here >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_sprinkler_system

LBM ... When I was responsible for industrial fire systems, the dry systems were far more trouble and expensive to maintain. In a power failure, the loss of air pressure caused much trouble and ache. If not properly handled, they caused a false alarm and wet socks. :sadsmile:

this is true. Our industrial clients usually have back up generators to prevent such things. Although, you must have had crappy installations...leaky heads and such.

Actually www.nfpa.org has more info.

carolprudm
Jun. 2, 2011, 11:29 AM
In a perfect world, Carol, prevention IS the key. But sh&t happens. Hay, shavings, grain dust are all VERY combustable. As are spider webs as we all know. One lightning strike and POOF. One arc. It happens, it really does.
Early detection is the key to saving lives and property. Personally, I think all public barns should have a masterbox and/or digital radio backup direct to the local FD, but that is another bag of tricks all together.

Unfortunately I am afraid that even if a fire alarm was sent to our local fire dept at the very first spark most barns would be toast by they arrived on the scene.

I forget where I read it but IIRC once a horse's stall catches fire he will be dead in 4 minutes. I would be amazed if our local FD could get to my farm in much less than 10 given the nature of our roads.

We all know of horses killed in barn fires. In the recent fire it seems that the ones who were rescued were saved by people already on the scene, not the FD

FertilizerLeaves
Jun. 2, 2011, 11:48 AM
I think it needs to be more of a combined effort. You cant rely on sprinklers alone. If you were to just install sprinklers but no alarms or other preventative and detection methods, I wouldn't say the cost is justified. But if you have new construction and build with heavy timber or cinderblocks, then I'd do it. If you think about it some (not me) spend the cost of the system on horses alone. I think it's a great idea and can be justified but only if it's not the one or two heads above the fire with nothing else.

Regarding fire, I thought most rural areas that weren't connected to municipal areas either had tanks or lakes for the purpose of fire department to drain.

Hinderella
Jun. 2, 2011, 11:49 AM
This is very interesting, as I too, have always wondered why barns, at least the high end ones, don't have sprinkler systems. The barn where I board has three exits, but I agree with philosoraptor, that the best thing is not to stall a horse at all, if possible.

Leprechaun
Jun. 2, 2011, 11:57 AM
While we do not have a sprinkler system we do have both heat rise sensors and smoke detectors. They are thru the same alarm service as the house and any alarm goes directly to the fire department. Reading what happened at True Prospect Farm it doesn't sound like they had smoke/heat alarms. Could that be true?

Mali
Jun. 2, 2011, 12:05 PM
I could never fathom why one of (if not THE) fanciest dressage/breeding facilities on the east coast (built in the early 90's), contains millions of dollars worth of horseflesh but does not contain a sprinkler system. If money is no object - why NOT have one installed? The hay is stored above the stalls, which in itself is a huge risk. I bet their indoor has a sprinkler system to keep their fancy footing perfect though ;) I guess a fire sprinkler system is pretty far down on their list of priorities, but I'm sure they're certain such a tragedy will never happen to "them". Ok - rant over.

FertilizerLeaves
Jun. 2, 2011, 01:47 PM
I've also heard somewhere that if you can, you should despot your horse to a firemans outfit. I do know that if its safe to them, firemen will rescue your horse, dog, etc. I'm sure most horses would not so kindly want to be led by what looks to them as a horse eater. So it makes sense to also have either falters left on or lead ropes close by, if the firemen arrive in good time and with the presumed ability to lead a horse out to it's owner.

poltroon
Jun. 2, 2011, 04:48 PM
Regarding fire, I thought most rural areas that weren't connected to municipal areas either had tanks or lakes for the purpose of fire department to drain.

Our local fire safe council advocates that people install a firehose coupling with clear signage and access for the fire department in their water system, but it's not required or even common.

Guilherme
Jun. 2, 2011, 05:34 PM
My guess the reason more barns don't have sprinkler systems is two-fold.

First, money. If it costs $5,000 + for a modest personal barn the cost for a very large barn will be...very large. It might be cheaper to pay a higher insurance premium and let the insurance pay off in case of a loss. This sounds dreadfully callous, but big barns are in business to make money. Horses are property and the loss paid will be the fair market value of the animal. Since most horses, even in pricier barns, are not really "elite" animals with six figured values the economic choice is pretty clear.

The company, too, is in business to make money. If they make a very expensive system like sprinklers mandatory (and their competition does not) then they will lose market share. As long the premium will support the risk of loss there's no real incentive to force a change.

Second, there are techinical issues. The flow rate noted is significantly in excess of the what my city water line can produce at the barn. If I were on our spring house it would be even less. The biggest, most productive personal well I know of won't produce the kind of flow that was referenced. That means building a water "holding tank" to provide the volume of water needed. Add this to the expense noted. Then there's the maintenance of any system. And you have to ensure that your holding tank lines are dry, too, or you'll freeze valves and pipes in cold climates.

If money makes the world go 'round (and it does) then it's likely the reason more barns don't have sprinkler systems.

G.

jenm
Jun. 2, 2011, 06:19 PM
My answer to fire prevention: I don't stall horses unless there is some good medical reason to do so. If something does catch fire, nobody is trapped inside. I'm also a fan of having exterior doors on every stall so there's 2 ways in/out of each stall.

I don't have a barn, but if I did, I would make darn sure each stall had another way out as well.

Guilherme
Jun. 3, 2011, 08:25 AM
I don't have a barn, but if I did, I would make darn sure each stall had another way out as well.

There are multiple, documented incidences of horses being released and run out of a burning barn only to return to that barn and dying in the fire. If the barn means safety and security and comfort to the horse then they will seek that in times of stress or fear. Multiple doors may not mean mutiple escape routes but rather multiple ways to re-enter the zone of danger.

G.

Mudroom
Jun. 3, 2011, 09:25 AM
I had our alarm co add heat sensors in our barn and tie it into our house system. If they detected a fire the company would be called and also the alarm goes off in our house. I already had a phone wire between the house and the barn with extra wires available so it was easy. I had one sensor go bad a couple years ago which triggered two false alarms, but otherwise no problems. Never had a fire (knock, knock) so I cannot attest to results in actual situation.

The company I work for has dry and wet sprinkler systems in our factory. The dry one has a small compresor that maintains the air pressure, but unless you have leaks it RARELY kicks in, as in a few minutes per month or something. There should not be exposure to power outages of a few hours.

The much bigger issue for most rural locations is water FLOW, not pressure. You can have decent pressure, but if the lines are small, which most residential ones are, you will not get the many gallons per minute that you would want. You either need a large line with a large tap running from a main with good supply, or a cistern or tank with a high capacity pump, large lines etc.

poltroon
Jun. 3, 2011, 01:41 PM
My main well only does 10 gpm, not nearly enough to do much for a fire. So it's not just the size of the lines but also the source and the pump at the source.