Fire and Water Officials Should Cooperate
Assistance of Water Works Superintendent Is Necessary to Make Prevention Campaign a Success—He Should be a Leader in Movement—What Indianapolis Has Accomplished
THE inter-relation between the water works and fire departments can no better be emphasized than by the article which follows. In fact, Mr. Jordan himself is an example of how closely allied the two services are, as he, the secretary of the company supplying Indianapolis with water, has taken the leading part in his city, through the Chamber of Commerce, and in cooperation with the Fire Chief, looking toward Fire Prevention and Fire Protection. The good work that he and the other members of the Chamber of Commerce fire prevention committee have done in the city of Indianapoils in awakening the people to a sense of their responsibility in the matter of proper fire precautions Cannot be Overestimated. Every line of attack on fire carelessness and ignorance that could offer has been taken advantage of by the committee in its Fire Prevention campaigns and the work accomplished has fully justified its labors.
America’s fire loss has reached the proportions of a national calamity and we are becoming a criminally careless people. This matter of burning four or five hundred million dollars’ worth of property every year has ceased to be a matter of no concern. Our increasing fire loss stands as a serious indictment of the American public. Our 1921 fire loss means that five hundred million dollars’ worth of our natural and created resources are wiped out of existence. There is a prevailing opinion that fire insurance companies in some mysterious way make good our loss by fire. The proceeds of a fire insurance policy may reimburse the individual for the loss he has sustained but no amount of money can restore a burned structure, therefore, when a fire occurs everybody loses.
Fire Destruction in American Forests
During the World War, we were bitter in our denunciation of the German nation by reason of the wanton destruction of thousands and thousands of acres of French forests by the German army, and our papers gave picture after picture depicting the burned and damaged forests, and we took a vow that Germany must be made to pay for this damage. In the year 1921, American forests were burned equal in acreage to eight times the total acreage destroyed or damaged in France during the four years of the World War, and 75 per cent, of all of our 1921 forest fires were due to human agencies and could have been prevented by care and vigilance on the part of forest users. Sufficient timber was burned in American forests last year to build 5-room houses for the entire population of such cities as Kansas City, New Orleans, Washington, Seattle, Portland, Rochester or Indianapolis.
Fire Fighting Efficiency Increased; Carefulness Decreased
A careful survey seems to indicate that the only answer which our country makes to the ever increasing fire loss is to add largely to its insurance premiums and to its fire departments both in men and equipment and today our fire departments are recognized as the most efficient in the world and well they need be. American travelers to foreign lands are prone to make rather uncomplimentary and factious remarks in regard to the antiquated fire fighting equipment maintained by the European cities, entirely overlooking the fact that while we have been busily engaged in increasing the efficiency of our fire fighting equipment the American public has been even more busily engaged in increasing its careless habits. We are today confronted with the lamentable fact that our country, with all of its wonderful development and wonderful fire fighting force and equipment, has an annual fire loss of almost $5 per capita, whereas the foreign countries, with antiquated fire fighting equipment but. with careful habits reinforced by severe personal liability laws, have an annual per capita fire loss ranging from 11 to 60 cents.
“If the Fire Prevention Program is to be successful, it will be due in no small measure to the co-operation of the Water Plant Superintendent, and his first duty will be to see that his property is fully equipped to furnish adequate fire protection service.”
“No organization in the United States should be more interested in the subject of Fire Protection and Fire Prevention, than the American Water Works Association, and I sincerely trust that this association will at once go on record, pledging its unqualified support to any movement looking to the curtailing of our fire losses.”
The depletion of our resources by fire is in itself an exceedingly serious matter, but the seriousness of the financial loss is greatly exceeded by the seriousness of our loss of life due to fire, our 1920 figures showing that 15,219 persons were burned to death in the United States and 17,641 were seriously injured. Eighty-two per cent, of the dead and injured were mothers and children, and 92 per cent, of the fires that caused these fatalities were the result of carelessness or negligence. Carefully prepared statistics indicate that approximately 80 per cent, of all the fires occurring in the United States are preventable.
Water Works Men Must Consider Fire Prevention
In view of our appalling loss in life and property, it is imperative that all great organizations, such as the American Water Works Association, give most careful attention to the question of Fire Protection and Fire Prevention and exert every effort to bring about the elimination of all of those fires which are classed as preventable. It is high time that we turn the spotlight of publicity on our fire loss, make a careful study of the causes of our fires and map out a carefully prepared campaign of education to the end that the right thinking people of this country may understand the seriousness of our fire loss and take proper steps to cut this loss to a minimum figure. This campaign of education should be followed by the enactment of rigid laws covering personal liability for preventable fires, and these laws should lie enforced to the letter so that the irresponsible or evil-minded citizen will be compelled to eliminate preventable fires.
The Matter of Personal Liability
It has been truly stated that a man who has a preventable fire picks the pockets of his neighbors either through the medium of fire insurance or an unjustified use of the public fire department which all must support. It is equally true that the fire departments are not maintained to protect a man from the results of his negligence, and when he calls upon the city in any such case he should be made to pay for this service. No civilized country should expect its firemen to risk their lives in fighting fires which are easily preventable. In many of the foreign countries, a man who has a fire must prove to the court that he was in no way responsible for the fire or he is subjected to a fine and the loss of his insurance. The time must come when the United States will enact laws covering personal liability for preventable fires. The public conscience has become dulled to the necessity for any Fire Prevention measures. We feel relieved when we read the words “Fully covered by Insurance,” and we feel that some soulless corporation called an insurance company will shake a tree bearing a never-ending crop of dollars and gather up this money and hand it to the insured, fully compensating him for all loss. We overlook the fact that our tremendous fire loss, plus the cost of operating insurance companies, is borne by all of us in the way of insurance premiums and that this amount constitutes one of our greatest national expenditures. No organization in the United States should be more interested in the subject of Fire Protection and Fire Prevention than the American Water Works Association, and I sincerly trust that this association will at once go on record, pledging its unqualified support to any movement looking to the curtailing of our fire loss. I desire to speak a word in commendation of the fine service which is being rendered by the National Fire Protection Association, and to enlist your support of that organization. Through the distribution of carefully prepared literature, and the putting forth of unstinted efforts in the cause of Fire Prevention, it is rendering a nation-wide service, the value of which cannot be measured in dollars and cents. I should be glad to see our association affiliate with the N. F. P. A., and it seems to me that it would be wise for our Association to urge all of its members to join the N. F. P. A. and co-operate with it in every way in the great campaign of Fire Prevention.
Superintendent Should Co-operate with National Board
If the Fire Prevention program is to be successful, it will be due in no small measure to the co-operation on the part of the water plant superintendent, and his first duty will be to see that his property is fully equipped to furnish adequate fire protection service. This may require the expenditure of a considerable amount of money, but the value of the adequate fire protection service will far outweigh the fixed charges on the extensions and additions necessary to bring the plant up to a point where it can furnish excellent service. The committee on Fire Prevention and Engineering Standards of the National Board of Fire Underwriters of New York has made a large number of reports on the water departments of the country, and if their suggestions are carried out these water departments would be in position to furnish excellent service and we would to the fullest extent co-operate in the Fire Prevention program. During the past fifteen years, the National Board of Fire Underwriters has made several reports on the Indianapolis Water Company’s property, and we have found these reports exceedingly valuable in that they have pointed out our weak spots and have guided us in mapping out our future extensions and additions. Our company is making a conscientious effort to comply with all of their suggestions, and it is our opinion that the increased efficiency of our water service has justified our expenditures. On a number of occasions they have modified some of their requests or requirements after getting our view point, and in all of our dealings with the representatives of this organization, we have found them broad-minded and fair.
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Fire and Water Officials Should Co-operate
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I trust that there may be the finest spirit of cooperation between all of our members and the National Board of Fire Underwriters, to the end that the water plants over the United States may furm’sh a thoroughly satisfactory Fire Protection service. A high fire loss in a city raises a question as to the integrity of the water plant to the same degree that a high typhoid rate raises a question in the minds of the people as to the purity of the water supply. These assumptions on the part of the public are not entirely true but nevertheless they exist in the minds of many of our citizens. Years of patient effort have largely eliminated typhoid fever, and the same patient effort will eliminate our preventable fires.
Should Start Fire Prevention Campaign
The up-to-date water works official made every effort to eliminate typhoid, and he should work just as hard toward the elimination of preventable fires. If a Fire Prevention Campaign has been inaugurated in his city, he should co-operate with it; if none has been inaugurated, he should initiate one and do his utmost to carry it through to a successful conclusion. Acting on this assumption, and on the invitation of W. J. Curran of the Indianapolis Salvage Corps, and E. M. Sellers, manager of the Indiana inspection bureau, the writer suggested to the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce the formation of a Fire Prevention committee. This was done in the early part of April, 1921, and the writer was made chairman of a fire prevention committee consisting of about 1,200 Indianapolis citizens. At the outset, we made a most careful study of our fire loss and were amazed to find that it had increased from a per capita loss of $1.75 in 1910 to a per capita loss of $5.10 for the year 1920, and that the average Indianapolis citizen had increased his careless habits in a greater ratio than the city had been able to increase its fire fighting facilities. Our investigation showed that in the year 1910 our city had 5.8 fires per thousand population, and that this had increased to 10.7 fires per thousand population during the year 1920. After going into the matter with great care, we determined that this great fire loss could not be checked by any campaign of one week or one month’s duration, and when our campaign was launched we went into it determined to spend four or fire years if necessary to achieve the results for which we were working, namely, a cleaner and healthier Indianapolis with an exceptionally low fire loss. We realized that the success of our undertaking depended almost entirely upon the one word “Co-operation,” and I am pleased to report that we have received as fine a spirit of co-operation as has ever been accorded to any city-wide undertaking in the City of Indianapolis.
City Defrays Expenses of Campaigns
At the outset of the 1921 campaign, the city evidenced its interest by defraying the expenses of the Fire Prevention Campaign, and during the 1921 campaign, and the same will be true of the 1922 campaign, not one dollar has been put up by any one who might in any way be interested from an ulterior motive. The fire department. and in fact all city departments, have co-operated in an exceptionally fine way and have done their utmost in the cause of Fire Prevention. No finer service has been rendered by any one than that rendered by the public and parochial schools, and a large measure of the success of our campaign has been due to the exceptionally fine co-operation accorded by these organizations. Through the instrumentality of thousands of Fire Prevention essays, programs and many, many talks by teachers, the subject of Fire Prevention is being taught to the younger generation, and it is our firm conviction that within a few years a careless people, and a consequent high fire loss, will be unknown. The churches, Sunday schools and civic clubs have at all times taken a lively interest in the subject of Fire Prevention and have given much publicity to our campaign. The board of sanitary commissioners took upon its shoulders the burden of removing all rubbish, or any refuse of any kind which had accumulated around the homes. Two hundred and fifty thousand pieces of Fire Prevention literature were distributed, and Fire Prevention cards are still hanging in thousands of Indianapolis homes.
Citizens Also Co-operated Splendidly
Added to this co-operation from the city officials, schools, clubs, etc., was the exceptionally fine co-operation from citizens in general. The net result of all of these efforts during 1921 was a great decrease in our fire loss and a surprisingly large decrease in our loss of life. Our 1921 fire loss showed a decrease of $550,000, as compared with 1920, and from April 1, 1921, to the present time but one person has been burned to death in our city instead of our usual annual loss of from 12 to 20. The greatest result, however, of our 1921 Fire Prevention Campaign, was the laying of the foundation for a greater Fire Prevention effort, and our 1922 program holds promise of even greater success than was attained in 1921.
Five Separate Campaigns
Generally speaking, our 1922 campaign is divided into five separate and distinct campaigns, namely:
“Let’s Clean ’Er Up” Campaign, running from April 3rd to April 29.
Fire Resistant Roof Campaign, April 12 to May 13.
City Beautification Campaign, May and June, closing with the awarding of prizes on June 15.
Clean-up and Fire Prevention Publicity Campaign, October 2 to October 16.
Xo Accident; No Fire Week, November 1 to November 8.
After mapping out our 1922 Fire Prevention program, we received a pledge of active co-operation from the new city administration, and I am pleased to report that the mayor, and every department of his administration, is giving unqualified co-operation. The city council appropriated funds to carry on the campaign, and our program was launched with the assurance of city-wide support. We distributed a large amount of “Let’s Clean ’Er Up” literature, and the newspapers gave much space, and as a net result our city has experienced the best clean-up in its history, and inspectors from the fire and police departments inform us that they are finding it necessary to serve but very few official clean-up notices.
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Fire and Water Officials Should Co-operate
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Trying to Eliminate Wooden Shingle
During the months of January and February of this year, our city had occasion to realize the absolute necessity of the elimination of the shingle roof, which according to our fire chief, is our greatest fire hazard. We have approximately 60,000 buildings covered with wooden shingle roofs, and during the first two months of this year we had 850 shingle roof fires, the maximum number for any one day being on February 16, when we had 63 fires, every one of which were due to defective flue or sparks on a shingle roof. We have at this time a city ordinance which prohibits the use of wooden shingles on new buildings, and provides further that if 50 per cent, of a roof is damaged the entire roof must be replaced with a fire resistant roof. This ordinance, however, fails to specify a time when all shingle roofs must be replaced with fire resistant roofs, and the change is therefore very slow. A great many of the cities over the country have rigid ordinances in reference to shingle roofs, and the value of these ordinances will be realized when we compare our record of more than 1,200 shingle roof fires in 1920 with a record of New Orleans, where there were 24; Cincinnati, 56; Louisville, 110; St. Paul, 99, and Philadelphia, 110. We held a large number of conferences with the Indianapolis roofers and explained to them that if our campaign to eliminate the wooden shingle roofs was successful, it would he because of the co-operation of the roofers, and that in order to cooj>erate it would be necessary for them to do three things:
1—Educate the public to the fact that good roofing is an asset, whereas, interior roofing is a liability.
2—Put on good roofing at a fair price.
3—Put on good roofing on the payment plan.
I am very glad to say to you that practically all of our roofers are co-operating in a fine way and have assured us that they would do everything in their power to further this program. We carried some publicity in our papers in the latter part of March in reference to the absolute necessity of eliminating the wooden shingle, and prepared to launch a strenuous campaign from April 12th to May 10th. The public, however, beat us to the proposition and roofers in Indianapolis tell us that they have all the work which they can possibly handle for some time. Our building commissioner is issuing from 35 to 60 re-roofing permits every day, and more will be issued later on when we get more roofers on the job.
We are arranging to conduct a City Beautification Campaign on the theory that if we can replace a rubbish pile with a flower bed or vegetable garden, there will not be much liability of another rubbish pile growing on or near that place.
Other Campaigns Planned
In the Fall, we will have a Clean-Up Campaign and Campaign of Education in regard to Fire Prevention measures, and this will be followed up by a “No Accident ; No Fire Week” in November. Our committee on laws and ordinances is giving careful attention to the preparation of city ordinance making .rigid provisions for the elimination of the shingle roof, and is also preparing a bill for the presentation to the next Legislature covering Personal Liability for Preventable Fires. We are just beginning to realize the length and breadth of a Fire Prevention program, and our experience indicates that it achieves the following results for a city;
1—Makes ior better health conditions through the instrumentality of Clean-up programs.
2—Decreases fire loss.
3—Decreases the loss of life due to fire.
4—Is essentially a Safety First Campaign.
5-Makes a City Beautiful through elimination of rubbish piles, dilapidated buildings and other fire hazards; and
6—Makes better American citizens.
Our neighboring city, Cincinnati, has achieved wonderful results through the instrumentality of its Fire Prevention Campaign, which has been waged unremittingly for the past several years, their records showing a reduction in fire loss of more than one and one-halt million dollars a year; a reduction of 20 fire houses, with a consequent reduction in taxes and an insurance rate which is said to he the lowest in the United States. What Cincinnati has done Indianapolis can do, and what we can do every American city can do.
Resolutions Adopted by Association
In order to get this matter before the American Water Works Association in concrete form, I desire to present the following preambles and resolutions and move their adoption:
Whereas, America’s fire loss has reached the proportions of a national calamity and as a nation we are becoming criminally careless; and
Whereas, The United States and Canada are suffering from economical impoverishment due to excessive annual losses of their created and natural resources from preventable fires; and Whereas. Proper Fire Prevention and extinguishment is a subject closely related to and affecting the competent conduct of the water works systems of the states, provinces and muncipalities of these countries;
It is Therefore Resolved. That the American Water Works Association pledges its active interest in furthering and participating in all proper efforts to reduce the fire losses of these countries and calls upon its members actively to initiate, assist and encourage in their various localities movements to this end.
I would further move that the American Water Works Association affiliate with the National Fire Protection Association and that effort be made to induce our members to join the National Fire Protection Association.
I would further move that the American Water Works Association call upon all of its members to comply with all reasonable regulations and requirements of the National Board of Fire Underwriters to the end that their water plant may furnish adequate fire protection service, and I would further move that the American Water Association use its every effort to bring about the enactment of laws covering Personal Liability for Preventable Fires.
(Note—The above resolutions were adopted by the Fortysecond Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association at Philadelphia, before which this paper, of which excerpts precede, was read, with the exception of clauses providing tor membership in N. F. P. A. and in favor of personal LIABILITY’.-EDITOR.)