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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.