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fire safety/prevention in barns- why no sprinklers?

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  • fire safety/prevention in barns- why no sprinklers?

    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?
    Jazz- 4.9.01 OTTB, loved since 12.6.09
    Skip- 3.3.91 APHA, i miss you buddy

  • #2
    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.
    Equus makus brokus but happy

    Comment


    • #3
      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.
      Equus makus brokus but happy

      Comment


      • #4
        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)

        Comment


        • #5
          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.
          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

          Comment


          • #6
            IMHO fire PREVENTION is much more effective than detection and suppression.

            http://www.pennsylvaniaequestrian.co...ire-safety.php


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

            and the long version
            http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/ub034.pdf
            I wasn't always a Smurf
            Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
            "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
            The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

            Comment


            • #7
              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
              save lives...spay/neuter/geld

              Comment


              • #8
                This is a great thread, very sad incident that promted it.

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

                Thanx


                LBR
                I reject your reality, and substitute my own- Adam Savage

                R.I.P Ron Smith, you'll be greatly missed

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by carolprudm View Post
                  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.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    thanks

                    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
                    Jazz- 4.9.01 OTTB, loved since 12.6.09
                    Skip- 3.3.91 APHA, i miss you buddy

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by fivehorses View Post
                      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.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        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.
                        Michael: Seems the people who burned me want me for a job.
                        Sam: A job? Does it pay?
                        Michael: Nah, it's more of a "we'll kill you if you don't do it" type of thing.
                        Sam: Oh. I've never liked those.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
                          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.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            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.
                            Veterinarians for Equine Welfare

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              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.
                              If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                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.
                                Equus makus brokus but happy

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by hosspuller View Post
                                  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.
                                  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.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by LittleblackMorgan View Post
                                    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
                                    I wasn't always a Smurf
                                    Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                                    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                                    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      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.
                                      What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof. -Christopher Hitchens

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        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.

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