Commissioner Adamson Speaks on Fire Prevention

Commissioner Adamson Speaks on Fire Prevention

Commissioner Robert Adamson, of the New York Fire Department, made a speech on “Safety and Saving in Fire Prevention” on Tuesday, October 19, at the convention of the Safety First Society of America, which was held in Detroit, Mich. In the course of his speech Commissioner Adamson said:

It is not true, as many suppose, that the work of fire prevention has been perfected. It is true that great progress has been made in the past three years, but at least two important things still remain to be done before the frightful loss of life and property by fire is substantially reduced. These two things are: 1— Criminal prosecution of the person who throws away a lighted match, cigar or cigarette inside a building. 2—More and more publicity as to the everyday causes of fires, and of the fact that individual carelessness causes a majority of our fires, as well as education of the business man to the fact that the installation of fire fighting equipment in a building is one of the best investments he can make. As to the first proposition: Last year in New York City we had 1,342 fires caused by carelessly thrown away lighted cigars and cigarettes, and 1,248 fires were caused by carelessness with matches. I assume that the same proportion of fires due to those causes would hold good throughout the country. The great Triangle fire in New York City which caused the death of 147 girls was caused by a lighted cigarette stump. Many of our most tragic and disastrous fires have been caused in the same way. Why should we longer tolerate this sort of criminal carelessness? Why should we not treat the person who is guilty of this sort of carelessness as the enemy of society which he is? We have tolerated this sort of criminal carelessness too long. We seem to overlook entirely the fact that every year millions of dollars worth of property and many scores of lives are sacrificed to such carelessness. It would be easy enough to teach people to extinguish matches and cigars or cigarettes before throwing them away if they knew that they would be dealt with criminally for their carelessness. Some will say that it is impossible to enforce a law of this kind. They said it would be impossible for the Health Department in New York City to enforce the ordinance against spitting on the sidewalk or in cars, but by a campaign of education and by making numerous arrests this habit has been almost stopped in New York. We can do the same thing with reference to the far more dangerous habit of throwing away lighted matches, cigars or cigarettes inside buildings if we are given a law which will enable us to deal with these people. We have prepared such a proposed ordinance in the Fire Prevention Bureau and hope we will be able in a short time to have it adopted by the Board of Aldermen of our city. Now with respect to the money which can be saved by a building owner by installing the proper fire extinguishing equipment in his building. I have many examples which show a great money saving which individual firms in New York City have accomplished by installing automatic sprinklers. * * * Chief Kenlon testified at the Triangle fire that the fire would not have occurred if the building had been sprinklered. In other words, the sprinkler cither extinguishes the fire in its inception or holds it in check until the firemen arrive.

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