Chiefs Invited to Co-operate in Film Campaign
Motion Picture Requires Help of Fire Officials in Every Community to Make it Fullest Success—Films Tell Vivid Story of Life and Property Loss Greater Than in World War
The many readers of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING who have been asking about the progress of our motion picture campaign for fire prevention will be interested in the accompanying article. It indicates that after the printers’ strike and the other unforeseen elements which have made for delay, we are proceeding with the enterprise which, with the support of local officials along the lines sought in this article, should soon be ready to launch. Read the following—and do your part:
THE fire loss in the United States within the next twenty years will equal the cost to this country of the great war, if things keep on as they are. The truth of this statement is vouched for by economists, insurance statisticians and fire department chiefs, men who know what they are talking about.
The average annual fire loss in the United States is $320,000,000—last year it was $317,000,000— making a total of $6,400,000,000 for a twenty-year period, while the cost of the great war to America with the enormous salvage figured in and the war books balanced was but little more. When it comes to a matter of loss of life, rough statistics show that fire is the greater destroyer. The total loss of life for the American Expeditionary Force was less than a quarter of a million all told, disease and accident included, with about sixty thousand killed in combat. For the fire losses—just read the newspapers every day.
Education Through Films the Remedy
How to halt this amazing, ruinous, criminal waste is the question that has been confronting the country since long before the Chicago fire. Spectacular and costly conflagrations, such as those of Baltimore, Bangor, Chelsea and Cumberland, Md., in more recent years, have served to arouse the people for a short time to the dangers of fire carelessness and lack of preventive measures, but only for a short time.
No one cares to be a prophet of evil, still if the past be any criterion of the future, great destroying conflagrations will continue to occur at intervals; that is, unless something in a really big way like the FIRE AND WATER ENGiNEERiNG-Universal Film campaign is done to educate the public in fire prevention.
Conflagrations with cities in ruins are one thing, and the constant, day by day, ever-increasing fire loss is another. It is the latter that saps the nation’s vitality. It is admitted that this loss can be greatly reduced through education, and a campaign of fire prevention education has now been started that will reach into every city and village, into factories, homes, even to the farms and farmers and into the forests.
Propaganda of the Highest Type
Backed up by newspaper and specialized magazine publicity, the motion picture is all powerful as a propaganda medium, particularly if the propaganda has for its purpose the good of the whole people, as in the case of our fire prevention campaign. In order that a full understanding may be had of what the campaign of education undertaken by FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING and the Universal Educational Department means, attention may again be called to the use of the Universal-Firestone film entitled “Careless America” in the national “Safety First” campaign. “Careless America,” carrying the lessons of “Safety First” with particular reference to the automobile, has been seen by virtually every person in the United States of theatre-going age. In addition to the theatres, it has been shown in schools, churches, factories, halls and homes. No other picture ever manufactured has had such a showing; for the reason that its appeal is for the saving of life and property. Secretary of State Francis M. Hugo, of New York, who uses “Careless America” wherever he makes a public address on “Safety First,” says the film has resulted in the saving of hundreds of lives and millions of dollars worth of property.
The fire prevention film which FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING is putting out in conjunction with the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, will be even more effective than the “Safety First” picture, because its field of possible accomplishment is much larger. Fire statisticians have figured that a large percentage of the $230,000,000 annual fire loss, with the resultant loss of life, can be saved.
Films Will Be Ready Soon
America’s fire losses of life and property are greater than those of any other country in the world. America’s firemen and fire-fighting apparatus are the best in the world. A sweeping statement, but a true one. The cause of the losses is due primarily to carelessness.
Within a short time the remedy will be ready for application, when the films to be used in our educational drive are ready for distribution.
As a final step before launching the campaign, however, word must be received from the fire chiefs and other officials who have been reading these preliminary announcements in FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING to the effect that they will support the drive in their own communities. The case is analogous to a great education system, where the schools are present in the form of the motion picture theatres, the books are present in the form of the films, and where the teachers are represented in the person of the local fire chief or some other prominent fire official who realizes his opportunity and his responsibliity in educating the public along fire prevention lines.
Support of Local Officials Necessary
Already a great many of the leading fire department heads have written to FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING pledging their support to the campaign to reduce the appalling fire loss of America; but many more such letters are needed. For this campaign to be effective it must be national in scope and reach every person in the country, possible only through the motion picture—with your backing.
Harry Levey, general manager of Universal’s Educational Department, who probably knows more about educational motion pictures than any other producer, has been spending a great part of his time for months past in selecting startling fire scenes snapped from the world’s largest and most spectacular fires that have occurred since the motion picture camera was invented. Besides this, scenes have been staged showing how the careless smoker causes fires; how blazes start from spontaneous combustion; how children left alone with matches—costing infinitesimal fraction of a cent—start a blaze the damage from which mounts to the million mark in dollars; how eletcric wires improperly circuited cause a fire in the walls of house, and hundreds of other scenes—each one of which will stick in the mind or inner consciousness of each spectator present.
Will Be Seen by Millions
Of course, it is beyond the power of even the psychologists to predict just how great the impressions certain scenes, acts, odors, feelings and other occurrences will make on the minds of 100,000,000 persons—the number of motion picture theatre patrons in the United States—the number of persons who would see such a film should the campaign become truly national in scope as we anticipate it will. But it is reasonable to assume that if a mother had her eyes riveted for many minutes on a film depicting a scene of a child at home alone, the mother away, and the child playing with matches with the result that baby is either burned to death or severely injured, the mother would exercise greater caution in leaving the child unattended at home and within reach of matches.
Teaches Vital Lesson
What is true in the case of the mother would also be true in the case of the careless smoker who would see enacted before his eyes the damage wrought by a match carelessly thrown aside without being thoroughly extinguished. The electrician would be more careful in wiring homes and would see that the insulation of wires was secure in out of the way places not accessible to an inspector. The public in general would be impressed by the spontaneous blaze scene and always keep corners and catch-all spots around a home free from castoff clothing, oily rags and debris of all sorts.
Such scenes, with a special number of scenes showing what to do in “The First Five Minutes,” which as Chief Kenlon, of New York, says, and as every fireman knows, are the vital minutes that decide the extent of a blaze, would leave an impression on the public’s mind that would not be forgotten.
Under Auspices of Chief
Factory fire prevention is a story all in itself and has been well worked out. The entire campaign, however, will lose tremendously in effectiveness without the full support and co-operation of the fire departments of the country. To revert to the educational feature, it would be like willing pupils—the public—trying to secure knowledge out of a text book without the aid of the teacher. At some time or another all of us have tried this unsatisfactory method of study, and we know how discouraging it is. The right teacher can bring out points which would never be seen by the pupil, and so it can and must be in the coming educational campaign to prevent fires—the films are to be the text books and the fire leaders in the community must be the teachers.
For example, when the film plays a neighborhood theatre, the film will be run under the auspices of the fire chief. Being a highly constructive movement for the betterment-of the community, every newspaper in town will be only too glad to give it the widest publicity, and every person in the neighborhood who can possibly attend will be on hand to help the theatre. Either before or after the showing of the picture, or while the picture is being shown, the fire chief will punch home the salient features of the film with verbal explanations and warnings.
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Such a procedure in the majority of the 18,000 motion picture theatres throughout the country, and many of the 3,100 factory theatres—theatres located in large factories where welfare and educational motion pictures are shown to employes—will reach practically every family in the country.
Write Us Your Views
The Governors of all the states of the Union in recent letters have signified their desire to co-operate in this film fire prevention campaign, which means largely increased and more assured production for the United States in 1920 and in every succeeding year. It is through the language of the eye that the lessons of fire dangers and fire prevention must be taught, and here is afforded a really great opportunity for the readers of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING to do their important, their essential part, in making a success of the campaign.
Can we count upon you? Write and tell us if you will be willing to help by furnishing speakers when the film is shown in your town.