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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 14, April 6, 2008, Article 14

ON PROTECTING LIBRARIES FROM FIRE AND WATER DAMAGE

Regarding the discussion initiated by Ken Hallenbeck on
protecting libraries from fire and water damage, former
Bureau of Engraving and Printing Executive Director Robert
J. Leuver writes: "The interested parties might with to
contact either the BEP's assistant director for technology
or the safety officer.  In my time (nine years at the BEP),
Clayton Pettaway was our safety officer.  Clayton, however,
died recently.

"BEP has a serious interest in fire suppression systems as
paper and the printed products of U.S. currency and postage
stamps have to be protected in storage, during printing and,
ultimately as finished products.  BEP has unique systems of
fire protection depending on location or production points
of the 'products' and printing equipment.

"Of course, even the best systems fail.  In the early 1980s,
I was acting director when Harry Clements, the director,
was out of town on business.  I received a call about about
6:30 AM, just as I was about to leave our home for my morning
run.    Ray Lavan, the chief of security, called to tell me
of a 2 AM fire in the Cotrell press room.   He said there was
no reason to call earlier as the fire was in progress and the
Washington, D.C. fire department was both in charge and had
taken control of the fire.  He further said that a Bureau
security vehicle was already at my home to take me to the BEP.

"I rushed to the Bureau, just beating the horrendous backup
of traffic on 14th Street and the ensuing back-up on I-95
(now I-295).  Four Cottrell presses were in ruins.  The
commemorative postage stamps being printed were slated to be
issued in about two weeks.  By 11 AM, Milton Seidel, the
assistant director for research and engineering, stated that
he could get two presses back into operation within a week,
while the other two had to be dismantled.  I directed that
such action be taken immediately and so informed U.S. Treasurer
Bay Buchanan and Treasury Secretary Donald Regan.

"Both Buchanan and Regan concurred in my decision, as did
Director Clements.  This was over the objections of Clayton
Pettaway and the D.C. fire marshal, who wanted an investigation
as to why the four pressmen 'got out so quickly' and the fire
suppression systems failed to work.  Security and Safety had
a good suspicion as to what happened, but it was essential to
get the first day issue of the commemorative stamps distributed
at least in part. The fire had obviously spread across the
floor and up the wall and knocked out the controls for the
fire suppression system.

"The commemorative stamp on the Cottrell press?  The Fire
Pumper stamp."

 PROTECTING LIBRARIES FROM FIRE AND WATER DAMAGE
 esylum_v11n13a16.html

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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