Our County: Working together in times of true emergency
by D. Gary Davis
Feb 04, 2014 | 611 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week was one for the record books, and hopefully one in which we all learned to be on the alert for ways we can help each other in times of emergency.

This not only was a local priority, it has also been on the minds of many in our state government as well. The following are just two examples of our state actively working to help all of our local communities by expediting the supply of resources for individuals, and also some reminders for businesses.

I wanted to publicize these in an attempt to help our local consumers and business owners as well.

One action came Friday afternoon when Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak issued an order to exempt Tennessee home and business owners from propane delivery restrictions in order to obtain needed propane.

“Heating homes and businesses is a priority during this cold weather snap,” McPeak said. “This order allows individuals to purchase propane from any dealer with available resources to help keep Tennesseans warm and in business while we manage these frigid temperatures.”

The Department of Commerce and Insurance is waiving the requirement that only the propane container dealer/owners can fill their containers. This order allows dealers of propane to fill or refill a container belonging to another dealer for the duration of the State of Emergency.

The Tennessee departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Insurance, Environment and Conservation, Safety, Transportation and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency are coordinating with each other to enact the order.

On another note, as the weather again rushes to or below zero, the state fire marshal wishes to remind building owners it is important to take steps to prevent freeze-ups of water-based fire protection systems, such as automatic fire sprinkler systems.

“While designers and installers of sprinkler systems take into account the variety of seasonal temperatures during installation, normal precautions should be taken to keep both the building and the fire sprinkler system warm,” McPeak said. “Like with all water-containing pipes, freezing temperatures can cause pipes to break or leak, resulting in problems during operation in the event of a fire. As we have seen, freezing temperatures outside also make it more difficult to utilize external sources for fire suppression, increasing the importance of the building’s internal systems.”

The National Fire Protection Association’s standard for the installation of sprinkler systems requires that the owner of the property maintain at least a 40-degree temperature in ALL areas containing water-filled piping. To avoid any loss of function of fire suppression systems in your building, consider the following recommendations:

1. Make sure heating systems are in good working order and that the thermostat is set high enough to prevent freezing temperatures in all areas of the building. Manually override any energy-saving measures on digital thermostats and other devices that allow the area temperature to drop below freezing.

2. Openings to the outdoors should be tightly sealed. If cold drafts are noticed, locate the source and take steps to remedy them. Remove snow and ice from doors and windows that don’t close completely, so that they can be sealed more tightly. Cracks around other openings should be sealed or caulked to keep warm air from dissipating.

3. Doors leading to poorly heated vestibules may need to be left open at night to allow heat into that area.

4. In buildings with drop-ceilings, removing a few tiles in each room will allow heat to travel into otherwise cold areas containing pipes.

Water in sprinkler piping, like any piping that holds water, will freeze when subjected to colder temperatures. Sprinkler piping should be kept at temperatures above freezing to ensure that they continue to operate correctly and to avoid potentially tragic and costly consequences that can be avoided by taking these simple precautions.

For further information on keeping your sprinkler system winter-ready, contact your qualified fire sprinkler contractor who provides routine inspection, testing and maintenance on your system. Their contact information should be located near the main control valves of your system.

Many thanks for ALL who worked tirelessly last week to ensure our safety and security during our recent ice emergency. While some have used their time to criticize, I want to say yes, that is your right to do so. But, I also want to make sure each and every professional involved in this emergency, as well as the day-to-day operations, know that we appreciate and thank them for a job well done.

With cooperation among professionals, more than 16,000 school children were kept safe and delivered home in one day to be at home that evening. This is an accomplishment not every community in our region can claim.

With more winter weather in the forecast, please use this time to prepare and work toward everyone doing their part to make themselves, their families and our community even more prepared for this and all emergencies.

Working together — that’s another reason Bradley County is ... Tennessee at its best.