Emphasize Positive Fire Prevention to the Public

Emphasize Positive Fire Prevention to the Public

Fire departments throughout this country are presently engaged in activities calculated to interest citizens in reducing fires. While Fire Prevention Week is the oldest nationally celebrated week and can be of great assistance in promoting fire safety to the people, it is not an end in itself. Skillfully employed, it rather can be the beginning or kick-off point for a ’year-round campaign that can return handsome dividends to any community. The record of those fire departments that employ it in this manner is encouraging and is an example to others who too often use it as a one-shot effort to be forgotten until next year.

One of the underlying reasons for the apathy frequently shown by fire fighters themselves towards fire prevention is the negative emphasis usually employed in publicity concerning this subject. Generally when fire losses are discussed, the recent yearly totals exceeding $1 billion are held up as horrible examples of our national inefficiency in this regard. Fire losses are tremendous waste, but in the light of our national economic growth their significance may be misleading.

Recently a research study reported that the over-all cost of fire to the United States during 1961 was $5 billion. This figure included the more than $1 ½-billion fire losses; $240 million for medical care necessary to treat the 11,500 persons who died and the 50,000 injured as the result of fire; and the more than $3 billion expended for fire prevention and suppx-ession activities, plus the overhead cost of maintaining these activities.

To those unaccustomed to dealing with huge sums, the impact of such statistics can be staggering. If these figures are accepted at face value without reference to any standard of measurement, they can be quite convincing that fire prevention and protection efforts are in vain. This is typical of the negative thinking which has for too long handicapped America’s fire prevention efforts and should be discarded. Once emphasis is placed on positive accomplishments, it will be discovered that this country is making good progress in fire safety and perhaps much more than many persons suspect.

Based on the 1961 losses, fire destroys well over $3 million worth of property each day. Yet each hour of every day we create wealth which far exceeds this daily total. This wealth is called our gross national product and includes all the goods and services which result from our efforts as a nation. During 1961 it exceeded $5(X) billion.

When our fire losses are compared with this sum, it is immediately apparent that they are less than ¼ of 1 per cent of the wealth we produced. The total cost of fire to this country, as reported earlier, amounts to slightly less than 1 per cent of the GNP. Far from being something to hide, it is at once apparent that by using this method of comparison, our national fire prevention and fire protection activities are much more efficient and effective than is frequently suspected. This is an accomplishment that should be emphasized.

That much can be done to further improve the record is self-evident. We are holding the line in lives lost despite an ever-increasing population, and building fires remain at a fairly constant rate despite the continuing building boom. However, 85 per cent of all fires still occur in homes and account for 50 per cent of all fire deaths. If home inspection programs require justification, then these figures are sufficient evidence of the need.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has long advocated home inspections as a major part of all fire prevention programs. It is fully supported in this endeavor by all underwriting organizations who cooperate to the extent of supplying materials and expert guidance to those interested in setting up home inspection programs. The IAFC has reported that over 50 per cent of all fire departments presently conduct this program and the record indicates excellent success.

If all the remaining fire departments adopted the method on a sound, continuing basis, it is believed that much greater progress could be made toward lower life loss and fewer home fires. It stands to reason that if fire prevention is emphasized in a positive, effective manner in the home, the people will begin to acquire better habits which will follow them at work or at play, to the greater safety of our country as a whole.

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