FIRE ALARM PUBLICITY NECESSARY TO CHANGE BAD HABITS OF PUBLIC
Chief R. J. Scott Plane Campaign to Alleviate Trouble—Many Do Not Know How to Direct Firemen to Location of Fire
DING-A-LING-A-LING, rang the telephone at Engine Co. 42. Taking down the receiver, I heard a voice say: “Captain Welty, report at Chief Scott’s office at 2 p. m.” I polished up my shoes and shined the bright-work, and at the hour designated I was to the outer door of Chief R. J. Scott’s office. His secretary bade me enter, and I did, wondering what it was all about.
“Have a seat, Captain,” spoke the Big Boss, and I found myself opposite a man who seemed to have more business lying on the desk before him than I could imagine one person taking care of. There was a stack of letters opened for his perusal that would have tickled the fancy of any movie queen.
I must have sat there for two or three minutes without a word being spoken. All the while I was speculating as to whether I was “on the carpet,” and at the same time I tried to figure out what “boner” I had pulled.
The man opposite me was as quite in manner as any I had called on in many a day, and when he started speaking that same composure prevailed.
“Captain, I have called you in to talk over a contemplated program with you. In our daily work we find that a large percentage of the public is helpless when it comes to calling the fire department to report a fire. Over half of our calts are received incorrectly, and, as a result, we spend considerable time locating the fire we know is burning. When we do arrive at such fires we are roundly ‘razed’ and told that was have a Hickville department. We also find too many people taking it for granted that a fire has been reported, and while they watch the building being consumed by fire, they indulge in a lot of ridicule because our men are slow in responding. Another difficulty we are experiencing, is the failure on the part of those ’phoning in a report to designate whether it is north, south, east, or west, as the case may he. Then again, we have calls come in where they fail to state whether it is street, drive, place, or avenue, and we are at a loss to know where the fire is. Most women send in their call something like this: ‘Bring the Fire Department; my house is on fire! I live in the house next to the church on Wilton!’ And then up goes the receiver.
“Now, there is another message we have to get over to the public, and that is the carelessness with gasoline and benzine, and more particularly as these elements are used in cleaning garments about the premises. During the past year 616 persons were treated at the Receiving Hospital for burns, and a great percentage of these cases were due to carelessness in the use of these volatiles. We are going to ask every person to banish them from their premises altogether, as they are far more dangerous than dynamite. A person will throw seventeen kinds of fits when he discovers a stick of dynamite around, and yet they maintain anil use gasoline as if it were harmless. There is no comparison as to the safety of these two products, as we all know that vaporized gasoline has far more explosive possibilities than dynamite. Now, in this campaign we will have a class of a million and a half to educate, and it is going to be a big job. We have raised the efficiency of our department to a very high level, and, in addition, our equipment is of the highest type. Yet, no matter how well equipped, the department can not properly function if the public is ignorant of the proper manner of transmitting an alarm. All the chief officers of the department are in accord with the plan of educating the public in respect to their relations with the Fire Department and their civic duties in fire emergencies. We are going to delegate to you the task of carrying on this educational work under the Bureau of Public Relations, and I will assign as many men to assist you as are necessary.”
That was the beginning made by Chief Scott, one of the many fire chiefs in the country who is alert to function as a man in command of a fire department should. This seems to be a very interesting plan, and one that other cities would do well to follow.