Residences, as Well as Public and Business Buildings Should Be Inspected—Cooperation of People Should Be Sought—Men Volunteer for Service

IN no line of endeavor are prevention efforts receiving greater consideration than in the profession of fire fighting, where fire extinction and fire prevention are so closely allied that the efficiency of a department can be measured by the results secured through fire prevention.

Every Fire Chief knows that the number of careless fires in property under constant and systematic inspection are reduced and the losses minimized. In 850 mercantile premises inspected twice each month, there were five fires. With such a record it is only fair to assume that “putting them out before they start” is a real and successful achievement.

Inspection Should Not Be Confined to Business Buildings

It is generally admitted that public buildings, factories, mercantile establishments and other business buildings should be inspected as often as the Chief of the l ire Department deems necessary and in proportion to the number of men available for the work. To confine fire prevention inspection to public and business properties alone, in my opinion, is not sufficient. Residential inspection annually is most important and necessary. Statistics show that over 60 per cent of the number of fires take place in dwellings and two-thirds of the 10,000 persons who were burned to death last year were in homes.

Only Refused Admission fo Three Residences

When a Chief considers residential inspections, he is confronted with the question of the right to do so, for “a man’s house is his castle.” Many states and provinces have Fire Marshals and under such an act, it is generally provided that anyone designated by the Fire Marshal may enter at any reasonable hour any building or other premises for the purpose of inspection, or to enforce any law or ordinance or any rule or order of the Fire Marshal, without being deemed guilty of trespass, provided that there is reason to suspect the existence of circumstances dangerous to the public safety as a fire menace. In our inspection we found no need of invoking the law. Out of 7,161 homes we were refused admission to only three.

Means fo Secure Cooperation

How can the people be approached and their cooperation obtained? One means is by a notice in the local paper, or better still, an editorial on the proposed inspection. The facts should be emphasized that cellar fires in dwellings, especially when they occur at night, are most dangerous and often cause loss of life. It should also be pointed out that practically every fire in the home is due to carelessness in allowing breeding places for fire to exist, such as, rubbish, papers, cleaning rags, ashes in wooden containers or against wooden partitions, defective pipes and flues, sub-standard electric wiring, or the use of improper fuses. All unsafe conditions liable to cause fire or its spread are brought to the attention of the owner, who is requested to accompany the inspectors on their visit. When people realize that this is solely for their benefit and protection they will not only cooperate but will welcome the inspection.

Men Volunteer for Inspection Service

How can the inspection be accomplished with a small force of men? This question bothered me before our first dwelling house inspection in 1914. I thoroughy believe in it primarily as a medium of acquainting people with potential hazards existing in cellars, that might cause loss of life. In many places hazards were plenty, but the owners felt that they were immune.

I realized that two men were necessary for each inspection, to obviate the possibility of any unpleasant occurrence that might spoil the inspection and embarrass the department. The men were consulted regarding the matter and readily agreed to volunteer their services on “off-time” periods for the week. The importance of this sacrifice on the part of the firemen was stressed in all notices announcing the inspection.

The good effect of these inspections in the Eire Department itself is apparent in many ways. It will inspire public confidence in the firemen and establish a sound appreciation of their value to the community. It will awaken interest in the welfare of the department and requests for increases in salary and better living conditions will not go unheeded and the Chief’s requests for additional men, apparatus, adequate building and fire prevention laws, and other improvements in public safety will be supported because of the citizens’ interest in the safety of the community.

Men Should Wear Uniforms in Inspections

Where there is no paid Fire Department, this campaign can be carried on by the volunteer service, but always in uniform. Rural inspectors should visit the nearest Chief of the Fire Department, that they might be advised as to the hazards which may be found and methods of eliminating them.

This campaign can be made doubly effective by the cooperation of all chambers of commerce, civic clubs, radio stations, schools, parent-teacher associations and women’s clubs. The time has come when Fire Departments must of themselves bring to the public mind the value of the service which they render to the community. In no way can this be more effectively done than by inspection, particularly residential inspection.

Results of Dwelling House Inspections

The accompanying table shows some of the results in cities where dwelling house inspections are made annually.

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