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  • Bob Reynolds
    replied
    Right you are, Lex. It was a collision I was referring to when I made the comment I made. The one I was involved in, I was really impressed with how drills paid off. we were landed, with 2 lines out, ready to get anyone and everyone off in about 8 to 10 minutes. Pretty impressive, I thought.

    Also along the same lines as your post, the two fires that I extinguished on the DQ were both due to shipyard work...one in the yard when I was the only person on board (the deep fryer had been left on for 8+ hours) and one on the first day of the season...yard workers were still working aboard, and sparks fell from a welding job into an open paint can. Both fires were put out in a matter of one or 2 minutes with a CO2 fire extinguisher. No one was ever in the remotest danger.

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  • Lexie Palmore
    replied
    The DQ has been evacuated due to allisions (hitting a stationary object). As the record stands, there is a much greater probability of the DQ having a catastrophic collision or allision than burning up. The DQ has survived these bumps with flying colors. Her STEEL hull was obviously built to last and last and last. I only worry about the DQ burning up when she is in a shipyard or is otherwise tied up, cooled down, and not being watched carefully (and has no passengers on board.)

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  • Alan Bates
    replied
    You are right about a packed excursion vessel. Panic does not occur to the same degree with small groups as it does with crowds. It may sound over-dramatic, but when I was mate on the Belle of Louisville I made up my mind that if there was a catastrophic fire my name would be in the newspapers, but I would not read it.
    The emphasis should be on ready acess to outdoor air and open decks leading to safety.

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  • Ernst Galutschek
    replied
    Originally posted by John Fryant View Post
    Just a passing thought - maybe not totally relative to the DQ, but interesting to think about with respect to wood VS steel construction: How many times in a year do we read bout a towboat (all steel & "fireproof") that has been badly damaged or sunk due to an onboard fire?
    There is nothing like a 'fireproof' construction. Everything burns if you make it hot enough.
    This is can not be used as argument in favor of DQ. (I do not know about towboats - but modern passenger ships are built to very, very high standards - yes, they also still burn)

    The effects of a fire are often misunderstood: Most people die due to the toxic fumes and not 'in the flames'. Also, one has to be aware that already a rather small fire can produce A LOT of smoke. (a rather small fire can be dangerous already within the first minutes (!) ) It is therefore utmost important to minimize the fireload (it will never be zero), the amount of toxic material, and to remove the smoke efficiently. (fans etc. - one even accepts to 'speed up' a fire in favor of providing people with air for a safe evacuation) This is the underlying strategy of most regulations - and we will not make friends trying to enquestion do that. (I agree that regulations for rivers might make a lot of sense - but this will not happen in time for DQ)

    Delta Queen nevertheless has one advantage - and I would strongly recommend to put an emphasis on that - most cabins have doors to the open deck - all cabins have windows -> the very common problem of smoke filled corridors passengers have to negotiate for evacuation nearly does not exist. (I am afraid, people could still get into problems due to the smoke - but it is certainly a very, very different situation) Also, DQ is anything but a 'high density' ship and should not be too difficult to evacuate - a 'packed' excursion vessel is certainly more problematic in case of an evacuation. (this is nevertheless an argument we might not want to use)

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  • John Fryant
    replied
    Just a passing thought - maybe not totally relative to the DQ, but interesting to think about with respect to wood VS steel construction: How many times in a year do we read bout a towboat (all steel & "fireproof") that has been badly damaged or sunk due to an onboard fire?

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  • Bob Reynolds
    replied
    GREAT argument, Bruno! This, coupled with the fact that there have been no fire disasters (not to say there have been no fires, for there have) for the entire time the boat has run on both the Ohio/Mississippi system as well as the California rivers, indicate the boat is safe. The fact that there have been small fires over the years is a testament to the watchfulness of the crew and their competence and diligence in extinguishing them. There have also been collisions, and they have been handled in the same professional manner.

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  • Bruno Krause
    replied
    I don't know if this is appropriate in this thread but the argument that I used with the DQ passengers that came on board and were convinced she is unsafe was this:

    Safety is relative, nothing is totally risk free, be it eating, taking a shower, walking down steps, owning a pet. But STATISTICALLY, which do YOU think was the safest for me when I came on board last Friday:

    1. Sleeping in my totally wood structured house that does not have automatic sprinklers, only two smoke detectors, no watchman, no fire resistant paint, no fire alarm system, and no crew at the immediate call to help with an emergency.
    2. Driving to the airport in rush hour traffic for 55 minutes.
    3. Flying to Memphis aboard two different airplanes.
    4. Or sleeping tonight on the DELTA QUEEN?

    A LOT of nodding heads on that one...

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  • Jo Ann Schoen
    replied
    Sounds like we need the exemption for now (quicker solution) and then work on getting the law changed once and for all, later. Do we have any expert working on documenting what has been posted about the fire retardant coatings and NASA developed paint? Is there anyway the manufacturer would provide us with documentation on the fire retardant coatings or is there a place on the internet to get information on the NASA developed paint? I know my Congressman Baron Hill thinks it's a safety issue. I'd like to bombard his office with all kind of scientific information (I certainly wouldn't understand it - and he doesn't need to). I want ammunition when I confront him next time he's in Indiana! (I hope those play on words don't get the CIA after me)! If there is someone out there working on this please let me know. I'm serious about providing technical information and trying to educate those so called legislators in Washington (of course, that's not what I've been calling them)!

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  • Hank Bloomer
    replied
    You are absolutely correct, sir. But regulatory reform moves at a glacial pace, and we still need to maintain our focus on an exemption.

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  • Pat Traynor
    replied
    Originally posted by Alan Bates View Post
    Perhaps we are driving down the wrong road with regard to SOLAS. Maybe we could try to convert the SOLAS law to exactly what it says it is, for Safety Of Life AT SEA. Create a new law for safety on the inland waters and get away from this periodic renewal of an exemption. How about a SOLOR (Safety of Lives On Rivers) law that recognizes such simple physical facts as shallow water, lack of tsunamis, narrow passages, bridges, locks, and all the other trials of river navigation that are different than those on the oceans?
    Alan, your idea make more sense than anything else that has been brought up! Those two words AT SEA have always bugged me, but no one else ever seemed to notice them and object. Seems like the DQ should have had a permanent exemption from the beginning, as she never goes to sea - except for towing her from the west coast. There are those who would remind us that she went out into the Gulf of Mexico on a few tips - but the Gulf is not open sea, and she was always within sight of land, even though she was further from shore than she normally is on a river.

    In a perfect world, it seems like she she could be exempted in minutes - but we are dealing with the US Congress here. as well as the USCG, so would we have enough time to give it a shot??? Anyone out there know how to get this started?

    Pat

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  • Ernst Galutschek
    replied
    Originally posted by Franz Neumeier View Post
    [...]

    First of course there should be no fire at all, so all material that doesn't catch fire easily is a big help. But look at cruise ships: There is a lot of plastic chairs, etc.[...]

    But then it's very important how long a structure withstands the fire until it collapses. [...] Metal doesn't burn, but it's melting! And it transfers heat quickly throughout the structure as it's a very good heat conductor. While wood is isolating the heat and keeps it local.[...]

    That's because wooden structures are very stabil even when burning and it's easier to estimate when they collapse, while metal when melting are collapsing all the sudden (see WTC and other steel buildings).[...]
    Whereas there was a problem with plastic chairs aboard a cruise ship recently fire regulations have been changed and have to be applied to the exterior too. Generally, only fire retardant materials (which do not produce toxic fumes) are allowed on contemporary passenger ships.

    It is true that wood behaves nice in a fire. But a fire in a building is different than a fire aboard a ship. A structural failure is probably not the main problem in case of DQ - at this time she should be evacuated - it is more the toxic fumes - and the fact that most cabin doors are opening to the open deck is indeed THE big advantage of Delta Queen that compensated for some other problems. One certainly should put an emphasis on that when asking for an exepmtion (especially as this was a major concern of Mr. Oberstar) - regulations for ships are based on rather long evacuations times (20 - 30 minutes) compared to what one could do aboard DQ. (has there ever been an evacuation?)

    As said above, many regulations certainly do indeed not make sense in case of DQ - but the people who supervise that are very confident about these regulations. I doubt that changing these regulations can be done in time to safe DQ.

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  • Alan Bates
    replied
    As Franz has noted, merely being non-combustible is a simplistic view of what happens in fires. Many other facets of construction should be taken into consideration. For example, all of the passenger staterooms on the Delta Queen have doors leading directly to open decks. Passengers are not obliged to traverse long and convoluted hallways to reach open air, therefor they are not as vulnerable to toxic fumes as on most passenger vessels. The USCG rules do not recognize factors such as this.
    The USCG is concerned about stability in high waves, yet applies the same rules to vessels that never meet them.
    The USCG cannot comprehend the confined clearances, shallow water, lock dimensions, bridge clearances, meeting other vessels and overhead obstacles that are a full-time concern to rivermen, but applies the same rules to them as for ships on unlimited oceans.
    On a personal level the USCG has a remarkable lack of understanding. When I designed the Natchez we had a three-weeks-long argument whether the wood in the paddlewheel constituted a fire hazard! This was extreme, I know, but it was real and the USCG examiner truly believed it did. Another insisted that lighting fixtures thirty feet above the hull had to be waterproof. When we pointed out to him that the generator would be submerged ten feet underwater by then he would not back down.
    Riverboat designers resolved the compartmentation problems of shallow hulls almost a hundred years ago. They recognized that wide, shallow hulls are far more vulnerable to sinking than to capsizing. To this day the USCG cannot grasp that concept.
    Our rivers carry far more tonnage than our ocean-going fleet, yet the USCG directs its energies and thought to salt water. It is time for a separate institution and a separate set of regulations to take over river safety issues.

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  • Franz Neumeier
    replied
    Just as a remark: it's no advantage that the DQ's superstructure is made from wood, but it's also not a disadvantage from the perspective of protecting people from the consequences of a fire. Please, let's be very careful with statements like this. You know how journalists and politicians are: 1,000 people say "A", 1 man says "B" --> journalists and poilticians say: "See, B must be true." just because it's the easiest answer to their problems.

    I think it's very important to think differently about a fire on board of a boat/ship, and in general with buildings:

    First of course there should be no fire at all, so all material that doesn't catch fire easily is a big help. But look at cruise ships: There is a lot of plastic chairs, etc. - this stuff catches fire much faster than any material used for building superstructures. Put a cigarett on a wooden chair and a plastic chair: The wooden chair will not catch fire, the plastic chair starts melting and might start a fire. SO it doesn't make sense to discuss this at all as the fire hazard is the same on any kind of ship, boat and building.

    But then it's very important how long a structure withstands the fire until it collapses. That's much more important than the question whether the material itself is burning or not, because the dangerous fumes (which are the main problem in a fire, not the flames and heat itself!) are being produced by burning furniture etc already longh before any kind of superstructure catches fire. Wood burns and is being consumed by a fire (in case of the DQ, slowly because it's hardwood, not Pine or something similar!). Metal doesn't burn, but it's melting! And it transfers heat quickly throughout the structure as it's a very good heat conductor. While wood is isolating the heat and keeps it local.

    Passengers need to be evacuated before a structure collapses. Ask experiences firemen - they tell you that they feel much saver entering a burning wooden building than a metal construction. That's because wooden structures are very stabil even when burning and it's easier to estimate when they collapse, while metal when melting are collapsing all the sudden (see WTC and other steel buildings).

    By the way, the DQ's superstructure is not completely made of wood. Many years ago they built in metal structures within wooden colums to give the structure even more stability and then they wrapped the wood back around the metal (sorry for my bad English explaining this, but I think you get the idea). Yo udon't see the steel, but it's there.

    To my understanding that's the best structure a river boat can have: Solid steel stabilizing the structure is protected from melting by slowly burning hardwood covering. And let's not forget the fireretardant paint on the wood all over the DQ: This paint even prevents the wood from burning at all for some time. And wood doesn't melt! So as long as the paint is protecting the wood, the structure is neither burning nor melting.

    Let's get people understand that wood has nothing to do with campfires. You won't make a campfire with steel, you do it with wood. So the perception is that wood is a fire hazard. NONSENSE, I say! Let's not get the politicians away with such cheap excuses. We're living in the 21th century. Let's make the politicians use their brains instead of making decisions based on kindergarden-level perception and knowledge of technology.

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  • Ernst Galutschek
    replied
    Originally posted by Alan Bates View Post
    Perhaps we are driving down the wrong road with regard to SOLAS. Maybe we could try to convert the SOLAS law to exactly what it says it is, for Safety Of Life AT SEA. Create a new law for safety on the inland waters and get away from this periodic renewal of an exemption. How about a SOLOR (Safety of Lives On Rivers) law that recognizes such simple physical facts as shallow water, lack of tsunamis, narrow passages, bridges, locks, and all the other trials of river navigation that are different than those on the oceans?
    Actually, solitons (tsunamis are solitary waves) were 'discovered' by Russell when he observed a soliton on the Union Canal in Scotland. ;)
    See also here: http://www.ma.hw.ac.uk/solitons/press.html

    Beside that, tsunamis are no threat to a ship in the open sea and are not considered in the SOLAS regulations. ;);)

    Personally, I would not so much enquestion the regulations. The shores are not always that close and that the water is not always that shallow - and evacuating a passenger vessel can indeed be a problem even close to the shore. Also, it is undeniably not an advantage that the superstructure of Delta Queen is made of wood.

    Delta Queen does not comply with nowadays regulations (which more or less make sense - more or less!) LIKE MANY HISTORICAL SITES ACROSS THE WHOLE WORLD. It is fact that she is a unique historical landmark which is the prime reason why she MUST BE PRESERVED AS OPERATIONAL (overnight) VESSEL.

    I would put an emphasis on THAT instead of fighting the well established regulations. I agree that it can be discussed whether all of the regulations make sense or not - but they are very well established - to enquestion that is an uphill battle that can not be won. (actually the concerned people would very likely not even listen to such arguments)

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  • Richard Weisenberger
    replied
    You may be onto something Alan. I can see the need for a separate safety law as applicable for inland waterways, as the current law which is applicable to the open sea certainly has little application to rivergoing vessels. It like comparing apples with oranges.

    I remember hearing a while back that there was still a law in the books requiring all public establishments to provide a hitching post for their customers' horses. I think it's time to examine what is really in the law books and to write new laws and make amendments to old laws as needed.

    Congressman Ed Whitfield agreed that the Safety at Sea Law hardly applies to rivergoing vessels and said he would do what he could to save the Delta Queen. Maybe, as Alan says, it's the Safety at Sea Law itself that needs amending to make it more applicable for rivergoing vessels. Our rivers are certainly not seas and do not require the same standards. Maybe with a change in the law we could get rid of the need for an exemption altogether.

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