Controlling the Moving Picture Film Fire Hazard

Controlling the Moving Picture Film Fire Hazard

Fire Peril of the Inflammable Film—Dangers of Panics—Use of the Non-Inflammable Film Advocated—Public Indifferent to Dangers

HAD the subject assigned me for this paper been brought before the Fire Marshals’ Association of North America for discussion ten to fifteen years ago there would have been but one answer to the question of controlling the film fire hazard and that would have been to permit its use only in a standard booth. While improvements have been made in the mechanism of the projectoscope itself by protecting the film, yet the commonly known inflammable film is still the same quick burning menace and safeguards should be thrown around its use and it should be subject to approved safety regulations. The standard film was and still is manufactured of inflammable material, not only dangerous from the flame and heat engendered, but added thereto the nauseating fumes that alone are sufficient to strike terror into an audience. From the very beginning it was found necessary to protect an audience from this danger and the standard booth requirements followed. If the film at that time was found to be made of such inflammable material and if there has been no lessening of this danger in the film itself, why should not the rules of safety still prevail?

Danger from Change of Films

There have been many safety improvements and appliances in the projectoscope that reduce the danger in its operation and doubtless if this one film only is to be considered, the standard booth might with reasonable chances of safety be dispensed with; but you will agree with me that the great danger is from having other films present and in the changing of films used, to and from the projectoscope.

Safety engineers and fire prevention experts must realize however that visual education is of such importance that the public will not heed the hazardous chances in being entertained by this means. So popular has this additional means of education grown that the public will not be longer refused, and it is therefore incumbent upon safety teachers to devise means whereby this growing interest may be gratified and at the same time reduce the chances of accident and disaster to the minimum.

Use of the Non Inflammable Film

If this danger is largely in the film, why would it not be the sensible thing to reduce the hazard therein? Is there not means of reducing or entirely eliminating this danger? We think the answer is in the use of the noninflammable or slow burning film and educating the public up to the point that there is no special danger in the film itself. True it is that we would still have the ordinary danger of panic to which should be added whatever further danger there is in the use of the projectoscope, its electrical attachments and other avenues of excitement to the audience, but when the danger from the film itself is removed and so understood by the audience the film cannot be charged with extraordinary danger. We must, however, not overlook the susceptibility of a mixed audience to panic—an unusual noise. falling of a seat, a cry on the street outside, a mere smell of smoke or the penetrating scream of some frightened child, the flashing of an electric light, the shooting of a gun, or any other unusual or imaginary danger may cause a panic in an audience.

To these dangers there should be added the ever present danger of a burning film, and I question the advisability of throwing down the bars in the open use of inflammable films. The added danger is too great. There are too many chances of accident fraught with terror, death and suffering to the innocent and helpless that may follow.

Public Indifferent to Dangers

This association, composed of men whose business and life work is in the interest of reducing fire hazards, would as well realize the following:

  1. That visual education by means of motion pictures has come to stay.
  2. That the public is determined, not only to gratify its curiosity, but has an insatiable desire for instruction and entertainment by means of this modern educational system.
  3. That the public is willing and desires to take chances for itself nothwithstanding the warnings and teachings of those that are measurably regarded as alarmists.
  4. That schools, colleges and educational institutions are now using and probably will continue the use without much question and without the protecting booth any film that strikes their fancy, either openly disregarding or surreptitiously evading warnings of those who know the danger.

Use Non-Inflammable or Safeguard Inflammable Films

From this you will know that your speaker is readv to say to the enterprising spirit of progress that the use of the inflammable film must be safeguarded by a protecting booth, or give way entirely to the non-inflammable or non-burning. Already much has been accomplished on these lines and prediction is hereby made that this advancement will go on until the motion picture film itself will not be so constructed as to be a menace to life and property as is now too largely the case.

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