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Water Supply When "SHIP" Happens

This information may only reach out and touch a few people that visit the Fire Engineering Community. If you are part of an organization that responds to military installations, specifically US Navy waterborne installations, this applies to you. It is equally important to those of us responsible for shipyards where military vessels will enter port. For the most part this will include departments on or near each of our coastlines, to include the gulf coast. I served in the Navy for 6 years as a Damage Controlman. I was responsible for all firefighting on the ship as well as atmospheric monitoring and chemical, biological, and radiological warfare defense. I have seen the importance of building the strength of that interface between fire department and shipboard operations. This is just one small piece of an overall operation and I will put additional information in the near future.

Having a dedicated water supply in the event there is a shipboard fire is crucial. The only difference is it is very unlikely we will have decent hydrants at our disposal. Getting and maintaining a good water supply on a ship is one of the first things that should be taking place on our arrival. We will run into two scenarios when responding to these ships. The first, and best case scenario is the ship will have a functioning fireman system. Look at the firemain system as a standpipe system that is piped all over the ship and is accessible on every deck of the ship. The ships firemain is usually standing anywhere between 150-175psi. The ships firemain has several outlets that come off the mainline and lead to a 2 ½” hose outlet with a gated wye and at least 200 feet of 1 ½” hose with a 95 GPM nozzle. Below is a picture of a standard setup on a ship. As far as terminology goes, these are referred to as Fire Stations. When the ship has a functioning firemain it is an extremely reliable source for water. Consideration should be given to utilizing just this system for water and not taxing resources setting up relays or something similar and dedicate those resources elsewhere. The ship has the ability to turn on more fire pumps that draw suction right from the ocean. The crew is capable of re-aligning valves in the systems to also give a certain area of the ship more pressure or volume.

The second scenario is that the ships firemain is out of service and a water supply is provided by the shipyard or private installation. This is normally done by running hose all throughout the ship and charging it using a private fire pump pier side or from a remote location away from the pier. We do have the ability to increase pressure in these systems, but expect anywhere between 100-125 psi that is available to you. Depending on the size of the ship you may have 10 fire stations, or even up to 25 fire stations. These stations are provided by the shipyard and run 1 ½” hose with their fittings. It is important that you identify if your equipment will work with theirs. Often times you will need an adapter to be able to connect your hose to their stations.

You can expect low flows inside of the skin of the ship because the Navy has to consider getting that water out after they use it for firefighting. At first you may say 95 GPM is very low. Consider the design of the ship. It is designed to reduce fire spread and intensity. A 95 GPM is a good nozzle for the Navy because it can handle most of their fires while keeping the ship on an even keel and not flood it out. Each ship will have a series of manifolds as well that provide an additional means of providing water. These manifolds, pictured below, are usually located in wide open areas on the ship or near and on the main decks.

Even with a good water supply we should be thinking of alternate means of getting water. We do it at residential and commercial fires, we should do it here. I said before that with a working firemain we are in great shape. In fact that should be one of the first questions you ask when arriving on board. Is your firemain operational? If so, it will save you a lot of headaches. We have our way of providing a back-up. We can set up relays if needed, we can draft, or even shuttle in water and transfer tanks if necessary. The Navy has additional options that they can use. It would be worth mentioning if they haven’t already begun to get these redundancies in motion. There is a lot of detail to these pieces of equipment but we will do a brief review.

The P-100 pump is a pump that has the ability to essential draft for us. Hard suction hoses are thrown over the side of the ship and suction is pulled. This pump is rated for 100 GPM at 83 psi. They use 2 ½” hose and the discharge side can connect to a trigate if you choose to run several lines.

Second is the ESP or electric submersible pump. This pump runs off 440V and is capable at drawing a suction and providing water. It is lowered into the water with the halyard. There is basket strainer on this pump and it is just another way to provide a secondary water supply.

Lastly is the Peri-jet educator. We can draw deep suction with this piece of equipment by hooking up suction and supply hoses and creating a venture to draw up a water supply.

The interface can be a fuzzy place to operate when responding to a shipboard fire. In the near future I will have more information on an entire shipboard operation to include suppression and communications. Water supply is something that should be in the front of our thoughts as we approach these incidents. One of the most important things we can do is identify issues before they arrive. Build relationships with your local shipyards and ship’s crew when they arrive in port. If you get the opportunity run drills with them and perform a walk-thru. It will be up to your individual jurisdictions but take a close look at why we choose not to use the Navy equipment. Why do we not want to use their hose? Why do we not want to use their water supply? Being on the other side of the fence as a Sailor and specifically a Damage Controlman, I can tell you the equipment you will be using of theirs is maintained very well. In fact I would go on a limb and say it is better maintained than our own stuff. Usually the argument is we have to use our own stuff because we know it works; so does theirs, and in some cases, better than ours. Just a thought to ponder.

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