Company Officers Must Hold Daily Drills
One of the most drastic orders that ever emanated from Fire Headquarters in New York came to light on November 15th. It reads:
“Commanding Officers are hereby directed to drill their companies for at least one hour each day in the handling of all tools, apparatus, appliances and in the evolutions required in existing rules and regulations and special orders. The time of the beginning and cessation of drills shall be entered in the company journal, together with a record of any interruptions occurring due to response to alarms for fire.
“Chiefs of Battalion shall personally supervise the drill in at least one company each week.
“Deputy Chiefs of Department shall keep an accurate record of the activities of companies and of Chiefs of Battalion under this order, and shall at all times be in a position to make a report to the Chief of Department (when called upon) concerning the efficiency of each unit. Where lack of interest or indifference is shown on the part of officers or firemen in carrying out drills, they shall forward a special report.
“The foregoing shall be considered supplementary to all rules governing drills.”
The foregoing order has what the firemen call “teeth” and it seems to be the indirect result of recent surveys which Chief Kenlon has been making on his own account. It has been known for some time in New York that Chief Kenlon has not been any too well satisfied with the knowledge of company officers with their own equipment.
A recent quiz conducted at headquarters among the captains of twenty scattered fire companies with relation to building reports showed in many instances a startling ignorance. In a big organization of 6,500 members with over 300 fire companies to be responsible for, a little laxity is not believed surprising. In the aforementioned order, every battalion and division chief is held responsible.
The order was not accompanied by any remarks or comments. It has been learned unofficially that Chief Kenton’s recent experiences at a big fire in Brooklyn impelled him to “Jack the boys up.”
One of the trials of commanding a fire department as big as New York is the fact that there are five separate political or topographical divisions or boroughs, separated by rivers and connected by bridges or ferries. Some of the most important subdivisions of such a large department are sometimes many miles away from headquarters which is located in downtown Manhattan. It may seem strange, but it is nevertheless true, that it is human nature for some firemen to change their ways, their ideas, their mannerisms, their aspect on their job, once they get away from the environment and the atmosphere of Manhattan Island.
When New York was consolidated in 1898 and absorbed the old City of Brooklyn, it was for years an uphill struggle to adopt the Brooklynites to the New York Fire Department formula. Chief Croker and Chief Kenlon, his successor, waged a long campaign in that direction. One of the first resorts was to send seasoned officers to take command in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens as well as Staten Island.