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PATTON REPORT NO.

38

THE RESTAURANTEUR
A VICTIM OF THE FIRE REGULATIONS
f y y em
© 1975 Patton L ife Sa et S st s, Inc.

Year after year thousands of small businessmen — No. 3: For a small percentage of the total insurance
restaurant owners — are financially devastated by fire. Each expenditures, the restaurant owner could pur-
week, 500 restaurants and clubs suffer serious fire damage. chase a nearly foolproof protection system to
If we could collect the 25,000 restaurant fires that occur save him from 100% of the fires that occur (and
annually, pool them and call it a flood or an earthquake, the then obtain insurance for much lower cost)
President of the United States and Congress would be rushing except that our existing fire safety laws and
to the aid of this industry. A "National Disaster" would be regulations act to prevent him from obtaining
declared and millions would be appropriated to help with the such protection.
restorations. But because these businessmen are ruined finan- In summary, the fire solutions offered to the restaurant
cially, not in one giant event, but on a random basis, this industry are not solutions at all; and the true solution to fire is
multitude of small devastations is taken for granted and maintained by law unavailable to this industry.
accepted as inevitable.
If a business is destroyed does it really make a difference to THE LOBBYIST
the victim that he suffered a loss as a random event rather than
as a part of a cataclysm? To the businessman who loses his One of the results of the Watergate investigations is that the
business, a loss is a loss, is a loss. United States public is only now beginning to realize how
special interest groups affect legislation. There are thousands
A VICTIM OF OUR FIRE REGULATIONS of registered lobbyists in Washington. The primary function of
these lobbyists is to influence legislation favorable to the
The underlying fire problem is not fire at all. No indeed! group represented.
The restaurant owner is a victim of our fire regulations. This is not all bad. Many political experts argue that
Consider these facts: lobbying is a normal function in a democracy. But where does
No. 1: The fire protection system most universally lobbying end and influence peddling begin?
applied to the restaurant (often under force of The public normally has some safeguards against cor-
law) will protect the restaurant against less than ruption. These safeguards include: a) the registration of
18% of the fires that occur. lobbyist, b) an open legislature, c) periodic elections, d) an
No. 2: The vast bulk of the restauranteur's expendi- alert press, e) financial disclosures by elected representatives.
tures for fire safety are channeled to insurance. But even with these safeguards, abuses occur and influence
But, in the event of a major fire the compen- peddling is rampant.
sation from insurance will be so inadequate (in
terms of the total loss sustained) that 50% will A NONELECTED SPECIAL
never return to business, and 40% of those that INTEREST LEGISLATURE
do manage to reopen will fail within three
years. Thus, 70% of the restaurants suffering a But now let us look at the development of our fire safety
major fire loss will not survive. (For an regulations. Surprisingly, the most extensive and widely used
explanation of the differences between the fire regulations in this country are not a product of Congress,
insured loss and the total loss, see Patton nor are they a product of State or Municipal legislatures. Our
Report No. 28.) vast array of fire regulations (our "National Fire Codes") are

Patton Report
40) A PUBLICATION DEDICATED TO HUMAN FIRE SAFETY
Published Bimonthly, 6 Issues Per Year By Patton
6075 Cleveland Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43229
produced by a nonpublic organization called the NATIONAL public pays the tab completely unaware of the battle that has
FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION. The NFPA operates been fought and won for his dollars.
without the public safeguards enumerated above. This code The unsuspecting public, including the restauranteur, is
writing organization was founded by the fire insurance destined to come up a loser regardless of which side wins.
industry in the 1890's, but is now "independent." Why? Because it is his money that is in the pot the players are
NFPA is by far the single most prolific producer of fire gambling for.
regulations in the world. More than two hundred fire codes
produced by NFPA are adopted and enforced by Federal, CORRUPTED SAFETY SYSTEMS
State, and Local authorities. These codes affect every business,
The power to control is the power to prostitute. Good
and every man, woman, and child in the United States.
things come from a free market. For example, let's consider a
If special interest groups are able to influence our Federal
si mple hose line.
lawmakers, in spite of the fact that they are closely observed
There are many uses for a hose line. One is to water the
and accountable to the electorate, isn't it logical to assume
lawn. Another is to extinguish a fire.
that there also are improper influences involving the NFPA
The making and the marketing of hoses for watering the
appointed lawmakers?
lawn has been maintained free commerce. Manufacturers have
As discussed above, the Washington lobbyists must register,
been allowed to compete freely to produce a better garden
but who controls the NFPA lobbyists?
hose. As a consequence, the homeowner can go to his
If a state was considering enacting a law requiring that a fire
neighborhood market today and buy an excellent hose and
protection system be installed in every restaurant in the state,
nozzle for a price range between $5.00 to $20.00. This hose
this would initiate much public debate and attention. Those
and nozzle is so simple of design, so handy in size, that even a
who have to pay the bill would at least have an opportunity to
child can use it.
voice their opinions.
Now let us look at our fire hose. The first thing to realize is
But let's assume the NFPA Fire Codes applying to
that the "just right" sized garden hose for humans is un-
restaurants are already adopted and being enforced by the
acceptable. Why? Because:
State. Now, suppose a small group, meeting in Boston, decides
A. You can not sell a "fire hose" for $150.00 if an
to amend an NFPA code to increase fire protection costs for
"equal" hose is available at the corner "drug
all restaurants. It can be a "fait accompli" before those who
store" for $10.00.
must pay the bill are even aware that the action is being con-
B. You can not sell an expensive U.L. "label" on the
sidered. Yes, literally overnight, an NFPA code revision can
hose if it is already guaranteed or approved by
become a Federal, State, and Local Law.
Sears & Roebuck or Good Housekeeping.
How many restaurant owners know what NFPA is doing?
C. You can not produce and sell a 40 page standard
How many restauranteurs have been consulted by NFPA when
and set of operating procedures for a hose and
NFPA is making decisions vitally affecting this industry? How
nozzle of such simple design that everybody
many managers of restaurants have ever even heard of NFPA?
already knows how to use it.
So, if we could take the garden hose (which has evolved,
THE GAMING TABLES OF NFPA through trial and error, to be of ideal size for use by humans)
and use it for the purpose of fighting fires; why then, there
What is America's largest industry? It is my contention would be no need for U.L. Labels, NFPA how to do it
that it is the "Fire Safety Industry." But it is mostly invisible. manuals, and special manufacturers of fire hose.
At least 20% (and in some instances as much as 50%) of the This leaves the code writers, the label sellers, and
cost of every building in America represents a fire safety cost. "approved" fire hose manufacturers two choices; namely:
Yes, fire safety regulations can sometimes actually double A. Make a hose too small, or
construction cost. I have personally seen such instances. When B. Make a hose too large.
these initial construction costs are converted to interest They opted for both.
charges over the life of the structure, when insurance costs are The first variety of improperly sized "fire hose" comes in a
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added, when maintenance costs are added, and the costs of the self-contained, gallon variety. It is a portable hose (if you
fire services, and the higher taxes, and many other costs are have a strong back), called a "fire extinguisher," and it gives
included; "Fire Safety" represents a major annual expenditure out a pencil lead thin stream of water for 50 seconds. Research
for every businessman in America. shows that a small straight stream is the least effective way to
The total cost of fire safety exceeds fifty billion dollars a use water for fire control. This "fire extinguisher" and its
year. This represents two hundred fifty dollars or more in cost companions require a 40 page NFPA standard to explain their
for every man, woman, and child in this country. Fifty billion use.
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dollars is spent based on a foundation of fire regulations and Would you buy gallons of water for $30.00 if there
fire safety concepts largely developed by special interest were no laws forcing you to do so?
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groups. Products are marketed by writing regulations which The second variety of improperly sized hose is the inch
not only require the use of the products but actually define fire hose that sells for about $150.00. But, it's too big for
those specific types which are "acceptable." This prevents humans to handle (unless you have two or more strong and
competitive and better products from being marketed. well-trained professional fire fighters per hose line).
11/2
The NFPA Fire Codes Committees are "invisable gaming Putting the inch hose at high pressure in the hands of an
tables" where billions are gambled, and won or lost. For amateur fire fighter is like putting a loaded gun in the hands of
example, if the steel and concrete industries win a major code a child. (It's a dangerous weapon being handled by someone
provision requiring "fireproof" construction for an industry who doesn't know how to use it.)
11/2
class (thus limiting the use of wood construction) a battle of Federal studies have shown that the inch hose is rarely
major significance is won. Construction costs spiral upward. used during a fire (except by firemen who carry their own
The increased costs must be built into consumer goods. The hose). The GSA (which constructs and manages Federal
2
Buildings) has a policy not to install 1% inch hose lines in Now what's wrong with water? Why are there so many rules
Federal Buildings. against it? Three things:
However, throughout America, thanks to our fire regula- A. It's too cheap.
tions, we have two types of fire hose, one too small to be very B. It's too good.
effective, and one too big to be used by nonprofessionals; but, C. It can't be patented.
the prices are high, the regulations are selling, and the labels I could, of course, go on and on and on with hundreds of
are in demand. And, government inspectors (Federal as well as examples. But why bother. I think the restaurant industry
State and Local) have been maneuvered into being the sales already knows (deep down in the gut) that it is being "had" by
force. the regulations. They know it — the only problem is they
In a nutshell, there is the difference between free enterprise don't know what to do about it.
and controlled markets. Freedom leads to research, improve-
ment, and rejection of the inappropriate. Controls lead to the THE FIRE SERVICES ARE BEING USED
marketing of inferior systems at inflated prices. The ability to
control is the ability to prostitute. The NFPA has a "now we love you .......... now we don't"
attitude toward the Fire Services.
When it comes to putting fire service personnel on the
TWO SIDES OF THE FIRE PROBLEM committees, or in charge of a committee, NFPA maintains a
distinctly cool attitude. For example, a Fire Department
There are two sides of the fire problem. There are those
standpipe system installed in building is a "lifeline" for the
who suffer from fire. Then there are those who benefit from firemen. Yet, there are only four fire services representatives
fire. Those organizations which have profits linked to fire are
on NFPA Standard 14, "Standpipe and Hose Systems,"
the organizations that spend the time and the money to compared to ten insurance industry representatives.
influence the NFPA codes. Those who suffer the fire losses Here's another example, for fifty years, the Fire Services
often do not even know what the NFPA is. have been strong advocates of the fire sprinkler system. The
Fire Chiefs recognized the vital role this system could play in
THE RESTAURANT PROBLEM protecting the public and the firemen.. So why is only one
representative of the Fire Services on this critical committee,
Our present fire safety systems and procedures for while the insurance industry and the insurance testing labora-
restaurants are like the fire hose — expensive; labeled and tories supply twelve of the twenty-four members?
approved; and too often they are also ineffective. When it comes to giving the Fire Services representation, or
The restaurant owner is sold an expensive system in the any piece of the power, the NF PA has not been very generous.
range hood, but this particular type of fire represents only But NFPA really loves the fireman when it comes to filling
18% of the fires that occur in restaurants (by NFPA's own the public meeting halls at the annual convention. The doors
statistics). Further, the hood fire is most likely to occur when are thrown open to admit several thousand local firemen free
the restaurant is occupied. But other fires, not guarded against, (others pay). What does this do? It fills the convention with an
will often occur after closing. These fires grow silently and are army of firemen who are sincerely dedicated to advancing the
usually discovered when it is too late to save the property. So, cause of fire safety, but not at all familiar with the issues.
the "minor" fire problem is solved (which lulls the owner into When the committee chairman presents the latest code
complacency) and the serious fire problem is ignored. revisions, which have been developed in closed meeting rooms,
Now let us look at a logical way to protect all areas of all those who reap the profits get equal time with those who pay
restaurants at all ti mes. Every restaurant already has a water the bill. But almost invariably the thundering "EYES" of the
supply adequate to control a small fire. We have had docu- visiting firemen carry the ball for the NFPA committees. Thus,
mentation that 25 to 50 GPM is adequate to control 100% of the real decision making is done in the closed committee
the fires likely to occur in restaurants. A restaurant must have rooms by often "loaded" committees, which makes the public
this amount of water to operate the dishwasher. A practical "debate" a farce.
piping system feeding sprinklers, designed to handle 25 to 50 The NFPA policy with the Fire Services could be summed
GPM, is not costly. Why then aren't such systems installed? up as — "No quarterbacking please, but lend us your muscle at
One need only probe the fire regulations and approving the goal line."
procedures to find the answer. It is this type of operation, closed-door meeting and
The sprinkler design rules of NFPA — 13 have required a "loaded" conventions that has permitted the sprinkler system
four inch supply main for an "approved" system. This one to be so controlled, so distorted in price and design, that this
little rule alone knocked most sprinkler systems "out of the protection (which could all but guarantee complete and total
ballpark" for restaurants before the "rules game" even begins. safety from fire for the restaurant owner) is effectively denied
"But," you may say, "If the incoming main is judged too to the industry. Probably 90% of the restaurants in America
small, why not install a sprinkler system fed by a tank and are without this protection. But if it were not for the NFPA
pump?" restrictions and prohibitions, probably 100% of the restaurants
But that won't work either. The smallest "U.L. approved would be protected.
fire pump" is rated 500 GPM (not 50 GPM). A total of fifty
pounds of a special powder can qualify as an "approved dry THE SOLUTION TO THE
chemical system." If you use water instead of a powder, RESTAURANT FIRE PROBLEM
suddenly 500 Gallons Per Minute ( which means at least 5,000
.--to 10,000 gallons total) is required. The solution to the restaurant fire problem is not difficult.
It's the old "one — two." If they don't destroy you with Here is a plan, which if implemented, would make restaurant
the left, they get you with the right. There are rules to keep fire losses close to zero.
you from using the city water, and there are rules that prevent 1. Install a small pipe, low-cost fire sprinkler system —
you from using you own water. throughout the premises, including the hood and duct.
3
This system should be designed for a water supply of 25 9. (For new construction) Do not use highly combustible
to 50 GPM and an "engineered" spacing of the heads. fiberboard ceiling tiles. Be careful of extensive use of
2. Install a "back up" thermostat on all deep fat fryers so fabrics and decorative materials that could spread fire
that if the main temperature control fails, the back up extremely fast. Don't be fooled by "fire retardant
will hold the heat below the "autoignition" temperature. treatments" because such treatments (by which
3. Install 5/8" garden hose lines and nozzles as necessary flammable materials become "safe") look great when
for fire fighting. Realize that water spray (not straight tested with a match, or in controlled fire tests; but let a
stream) nozzles are fully approved for electrical fires and real fire get going and you may be quite surprised by the
flammable liquid fires as well as normal fires. manner in which the "Flameproofed" materials behave.
4. If at all practical, have an automatic alarm transmitted Finally, and perhaps the most important, know that the
to the fire station or other supervised areas when a primary motivation behind many of the fire codes and regula-
sprinkler or fire hose line is operated. tions is not to keep you free of fire, rather it is to keep you a
5. At closing, gather all tablecloths and used linen and put good market for those who are selling "fire safety" products.
it all in a "laundry room" which is fire resistive. A room If the Restaurant Industry desires better fire safety, a
with a layer of gypsum wallboard on walls and ceiling, reduced potential for business failure due to fire, and reduced
protected with a fire rated door and frame will do insurance costs; all this is possible. There is no "enforcing
nicely. For good measure, put a sprinkler in the room. agency" that can actually prevent a strong and knowledgeable
6. Do the same with the trash. Get it outdoors or in a industry from availing itself of improved safety at reduced
protected room. cost. The industry is presently being exploited via the fire
7. Make a thorough final check for cigarettes or smoldering regulations because the industry can be exploited. So long as
fires. Turn off all unnecessary electrical circuits. the industry as a whole remains divided and confused on fire
8. (For new construction) Design the duct system from the safety and has blind trust in those who make the profits —
range so that it can take a total burnout without igniting that's how long the industry will be victimized by the regula-
any combustible construction. tions.

PATTON LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, INC.


6075 Cleveland Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43229