Structural Fire Protection, Weeks 2 and 3 at CAHA

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When I first applied to the National Park Service, I imagined that if I was offered a position, it would be in some remote northwestern park.  My uninformed expectation of NPS structural fire protection was essentially making sure that some lodge in Yellowstone or Glacier National Park was safe from wildfires.  Upon being offered a summer position at Cape Hatteras, I thought "that sounds cool, but what could burn on a beach, lifeguard stands?"  Man, was I wrong.  There are dozens of buildings here scattered around various islands, each housing important people, exhibits, and machinery.  The people work hard every day to give tourists an informative, safe, and fun experience that they will enjoy.  From Ocracoke to Wright Brothers National Memorial, Park buildings are mixed in with the seashore, wildlife preserves, and the typical beach scenery.  While the current fire protection is sometimes not up to par, I quickly came to realize that I will have a busy and interesting summer making sure that I assist however I can in noting and improving these buildings' life and property safety.



These last two weeks, I got out to see a little more of the National Seashore, with a trip down to the Bodie Island Lighthouse.  A new deluge sprinkler system is being put into place in a small building at the base of the lighthouse, called the "Oil House."  Some pictures of the lighthouse and interior of the Oil House are below. 


The design phase has been completed, with installation of the riser and underground feed piping being the current stage of work.  The Southeast Regional Structural Fire Coordinator, Jim King, came up from Atlanta to give his required input to the project.  Unfortunately, some 230 ft. of underground piping had already been buried with its code compliance still up in the air.  Fortunately, after some code research and communication, it was determined that the pipe can be used in the current system.



























A picture of the Bodie Island Lighthouse under renovation.  The Oil House is the small white building at its base.




























This is the interior of the Oil House leading into the lighthouse stairs.


I've also been working on putting together an inventory of the current fire protection systems in place around CAHA.  So far, my reviews have been limited to the Fort Raleigh area, but I expect to get out to some of the more distant areas within the next few weeks.  Below are some pictures of the areas I've looked at and some problematic features, which I will be helping to address during the rest of my stay here.




















This is the inside of a storage building called the Bally Building.  The sprinkler branch line runs along the underside of the exposed ductwork, with sprinklers every 9 feet or so.  Its lowest point is about 6 feet below the actual ceiling (Upper left).








This is a close-up of one of the sprinklers along the previously mentioned branch line.  It is, for some reason, in a cage.





































This is the inside of one temperature-controlled metal storage enclosure (out of 3) in the Museum Resource Building.  The enclosures are within a sprinklered building, but there is no suppression within the enclosures themselves, where the important documents and artifacts are kept.  We are thinking of extending the sprinkler system from the Museum Resource Building into the enclosures.  The only issue is that the storage in Room 1 comes to well within 18 inches of the ceiling, so design and placement of sprinklers will be crucial.  Some of the documents will have to be moved as well.


Also, the historical staff isn't ecstatic about having water in with their documents, but as Jim King and many others have said, "There are ways to bring documents back from water damage, there is no way to bring them back from ashes."  Once that room is hot enough to activate the sprinklers, the documents are in danger, if not already destroyed.



























This is the view from my cubicle of a sprinkler head and smoke detector.  Both of which are properly spaced and maintained.


Over the next few weeks, I plan on continuing with this inventory/assessment, traveling over to Bodie Island and Wright Brothers National Memorial.  I'm also going to work on some emergency evacuation plans for park buildings and start putting together a flow testing program for the hydrants around the park.



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