First Tunnel in Virginia Protected by Sprinklers
In April of 2016, the Norfolk-Virginia Beach office of VSC Fire & Security, Inc. completed installing a fire suppression system in the new U.S. 58 Midtown tunnel that connects Norfolk, Virginia to Portsmouth, Virginia. The multimillion dollar project began construction in November of 2015, and the five-month endeavor was an exhilarating challenge for everyone involved. Steve McGee, a project manager and estimator for VSC Fire & Security, Inc., was proud to be a part of production on the first tunnel in Virginia equipped with a fire suppression system. “In my 41 years of working in fire protection, this project was the pinnacle,” says McGee. “It was total professionalism from the top down. The estimating, the design portion, coordinating for the installation, getting it installed. The whole process was positive.”
The tunnel contains 35 Bermad/Victaulic on-off deluge valves and about 10,000 linear feet of schedule 40 galvanized 6- and 8-in. pipe. The unique system is designed to release two deluge systems at a one time. Each system contains 16 large orifice open heads. The design narrative by the consulting engineers of Parsons Brinckerhoff dictated that the system be capable of handling a fire incident that involved a large, 18-wheel vehicle fire.
McGee found that working with the government on such a high-profile project was definitely a learning experience. “Because of the security aspect of the project, to bid on the job we had to sit in a room with someone with security clearance and work on 11×17 drawings, until we were provided with security clearance,” says McGee. “All the guys had to obtain a clearance to work on the site. You were very limited in the pictures you could take and utilize, and they had to be reviewed.”
The detection and releasing of the deluge valves is handled by a Supervising Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. The SCADA system directs most of the control operation of the tunnel systems including electronics, air handling, cameras, security and the fire detection. Once a system is activated the operations manager has the capability of remotely and electronically closing or reopening the deluge valve as needed.
The tunnel length is 4,000 feet and the tight quarters created many challenging conditions and required creative solutions. Much of the full lengths sticks of 6- and 8-in. pipe had to be manually handled and walked into place via large wheeled “grasshoppers” that sorely tested the thighs and arms of some dedicated men. The schedule was extremely condensed and required 14 VSC Fire & Security, Inc. team members five-days-a-week and 21 team members on the weekends.
“The project was an extreme test of the offices capabilities and left no segment unchallenged. Many thanks and deserving gratitude to project management, field supervision, purchasing, admin, design and field staff for an extraordinary effort and accomplishment,” said Mike Meehan, district manager for the Virginia Beach office of VSC Fire & Security, Inc. and president of the company. Meehan is also the Chairman of the Board of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA).