Fighting Fire by Inspections
FIGHTING fire in advance through systematic inspection has a very significant value in modern and scientific fire fighting.
There are two distinct purposes in making thorough inspections of buildings. First, to apprehend if any fire hazards exist. Second, to get acquainted with buildings and get the knowledge which is essential to have to successfully fight a fire, should one occur. If any fire hazards are found, they should be ordered removed, thereby preventing the possibility of a future fire, or, in other words, fighting a fire in advance hv fire prevention. Fire Prevention is being recognized today as one of the great factors in helping reduce our fire losses.
For years we have tried to keep our losses down by extinguishing, but have failed. Instead of being lower, they were getting higher each year until we reached the peak year in 1929, with a fire loss in the United States of approximately live hundred twenty-five millions. So it has been generally accepted that it was necessary to use fire prevention methods in conjunction with extinguishing if we were to obtain better results.
Reduction of Fire Losses Through Prevention
In this manner of fire fighting we have been able to reduce our losses from $525,000,000 in 1929 to $316,897,733 in 1933. This shows that a great many Fire Departments over the United States have been fighting fires in advance by systematic inspecting and having the cause removed. For example, in Indianapolis we have reduced our losses from $1,326,000 in 1929 to $382,000 in 1933, or from a per capita loss of $3.70 in 1929 to $1.03 in 1933. I attribute this decrease to the modern methods used and efficient work done by the several divisions of the department cooperating and working as one unit to obtain the desired results: “Reducing our Fire Losses.” We would be surprised to know how many would-be fires are stopped before thev start by modern and efficient fire prevention methods. 1 am satisfied we have 25 per cent less fires with losses in Indianapolis bv stressing the importance of modern fire-fighting methods.
Advantages of Systematic Inspections
In 1933 we made 63,930 inspections; 9,421 orders were issued to correct fire hazards; 5,496 reinspections were made, 9,066 orders complied with. You may not have fire prevention ordinances or laws that give you au-
thority to act. Of all the orders given to correct fire hazards, we did not have to resort to the courts to get results. I believe by using a little diplomacy, being courteous and gaining the confidence of the people, they will cooperate with us in this great fight to prevent fires.
We make continuous inspections in our high valued districts by our fire prevention men, also by the company men. We have had only one second alarm fire in our high valued district within five years. I think this is proof that we can fight fires in advance by systematic inspecting.
Two Clean-Up Campaigns During Year
It might be of interest to know that we have two clean-up campaigns each year. Usually during the month of April we have what we call our Spring Clean-up in our residential districts, whereby we ask the people to collect all debris that has accumulated during the winter and place it in containers and the Sanitary Board removes this from the premises. I detail thirty men to inspect the residential districts for one week during this campaign. Besides inspecting for fire hazards, these men also instruct the people in how to prevent fires.
The Fall Campaign is held in October during the National Fire Prevention Week and is carried on very similar to our Spring Clean-up Campaign. I consider these Clean-up Campaigns of great value in helping to prevent fires.
Each Company Given District to Inspect
I believe that systematic inspection can best be accomplished by installing company inspection districts, thereby giving each company a certain district to inspect. In so doing every building would be inspected by the company men in their respective districts. Through this system of inspecting, the company men become acquainted with the buildings in their districts, in this manner gaining knowledge of the construction and contents of the buildings which is very important to know in combating fires.
The inspector should observe the type of building he is inspecting, whether it is a first, second or third class building, with the thought in mind of a possibility of a fire occurring in it. He should familiarize himself with a building, to know whether it is fireproof, semi-fireproof, of slow or fast burning construction; location of all elevator shafts; whether they are enclosed, fireproof or not; of what material all stairways are constructed; if they are open or closed, protected with fire doors; to know where all fire doors, if any, are located and if they are in working condition; to know where all utility shut-offs are located.
Sprinkler Knowledge Important
If a building is sprinklered the inspector should know whether it is equipped with a Siamese connection, with standpipes and the condition of same; if they can be used by the Fire Department on which to connect lines; the condition of fire hose, if any. that is carried in the building. It is very important to know where the sprinkler shut-off is located, for very often a heavy water damage can be avoided by having this information. It is also important to know the location of electric switchboard so that all electricity can be cut out of building to avoid charging same, thereby possibly saving some person, or persons, from being electrocuted. There are many other things that should be observed, such as doors, windows, stairways, aisles and fire escapes to see they are not obstructed with anything that would retard the Fire Department in stretching lines into building.
Should Know Contents of Buildings
It is also very essential to know the contents of buildings. One should know if the building contains chemicals, volatile liquids, acids or explosives, their location and what to use in extinguishing to prevent deadly gases from forming and endangering the lives of the firemen.
It is also important to know if building contains anything that would absorb a sufficient amount of water whereby the weight would cause the building to collapse.
By the company men making thorough and systematic inspections they have prepared themselves in advance to fight a fire, should one occur, by being thoroughly familiar with building, which is a great factor in successful fire fighting. It also enables them to convey to a commanding officer any information he wishes to know about building that will help him to fight the fire more efficiently.
I believe that a good per cent of our fire losses can be eliminated through systematic inspection by company men having fire hazards removed and thoroughly familiarizing themselves with buildings which enables them to take advantage of the situation through the knowledge they have obtained, making it possible to combat a fire more intelligently.
Should Stress Responsibility of Individual
I believe we could further our cause by stressing on the individual his responsibility that he owes himself, his neighbor and his community in helping to prevent fires by being more careful, thereby reducing to a minimum the awful toll of life and property that is being consumed each year by the ravages of the mighty fire demon.
I am a firm believer in preparedness, especially in the Fire Department. I believe in modern and efficient fire prevention methods, all equipment being kept up to the highest point of efficiency and manned by well disciplined and trained men who know how and when to use it. Being thus prepared, with every man in our vast army of firemen, paid or volunteer, applying himself to his important task, we will be able to meet this great challenge—How to Reduce the Fire Losses.
(From a paper read before the annual meeting of the Indiana Section, American Water Works Association.)