Citizen Fire Prevention Group Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Citizen Fire Prevention Group Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The emphasis on fire prevention has been especially strong in the Philadelphia Fire Department since 1952, when the new city charter dictated that fire prevention should be as important as fire suppression.

At that time, the Citizen’s Fire Prevention Committees were formed, composed of leading figures in the worlds of business, safety and public relations. They were enlisted to aid the department to further the cause of fire prevention.

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the committee. This year, as always, the Citizen’s Committees cosponsored an annual fire prevention seminar. It was held at the Philadelphia College for Textiles and Sciences on June 9-11.

Hazardous materials theme

A main theme of this year’s seminar was hazardous materials.

A panel discussion by Deputy Chief Harry J. Walsh, Fire Marshal Patrick McGinley, and David Wismer, chief of the department of licenses and inspections for Philadelphia, centered on the “Right to Know” law—a piece of legislation recently passed in Philadelphia giving every citizen the right to know what chemicals were passing through or stored in their area. The federal government tried this with OSHA and failed. The state failed. Now Bill 475 has rewritten changes in Paragraph 5-500 of the Philadelphia Fire Code. It not only takes in flammable liquids, but corrosive liquids as well.

Walsh explained that companies on block check note quantities of dangerous materials on hand, whether there is a license for the storage of chemicals. If they are in doubt, they send in a referral slip and the department of licenses and inspections will send out an inspector to check.

This meant that the city had to assemble a list of all places, who had what materials, how much was on hand, etc., and put into the computer. This information is given a Philadelphia identification number (P.I.N.), Philadelphia’s own classification for chemicals. The information has to be passed down through the fire marshal’s office to the deputy chiefs and on down the line. Each fire marshal, deputy chief, battalion chief and fire company is given a book containing a listing of places handling or storing hazardous materials.

Purchasing agents get blame

Thomas Moran, vice president of regulator compliance and public affairs of Morris Plains, N.J., discussed chemical and hazardous waste disposal.

Moran stated a large part of the problem lies with company purchasing agents who do not know what is coming in the door. Often, he explained, what goes out need not go, and it goes out in an expensive manner.

It is necessary to control inventory by ordering in reasonable amounts. The purchasing department has a lot to do with hazardous material waste. If they would only purchase chemicals in smaller containers, albeit at a higher cost, they might well effectively hold down net cost, according to Moran.

Friday’s session drew a record number of onday registrants, many of them school teachers and administrators who came to see a session on “Sesame Street” fire education presented by Art Guidry, program director of the Community Education Services of the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW).

Guidry explained how the Federal Emergent Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration had requested CTW to build fire safety elements into TV shows for children.

Most frequent victims

Their concern was that children of two to five years of age, representing 7 percent of the population, accounted for 1 percent of all fire deaths, and that very young children (under three years of age) were the most frequent victims of fire.

In many cases, children have been found to be afraid of fire fighters in combat equipment, Guidry said. Two Philadelphia fire fighters, Guy Benson and Frank Squillace appeared in full gear including SCBA. They put on an act of searching for children. Guidry suggested that children be taken to fire stations and shown real fire engines and fire fighting equipment to eliminate this fear.

Volunteers from the audience participated in a session of “stop, drop and roll” and “smoke crawl” as techniques to teach children how to react in a fire emergency.

Guidry stressed that certain negative concepts should not be taught, such as teaching children not to play with matches. The child is going to remember more what he sees—matches—and less what he hears about matches. The same thing goes with not teaching the child to think of a window as an exit; he may live on the 56th floor of an apartment building.

Those readers interested in obtaining a full report of the CTW’s “Fire Education on Sesame Street” may obtain a copy by writing to: Sesame Street Program, Office of Planning and Education, U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, D.C. 20472.

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