Fire Precautions For The General Public
The general public is chiefly accustomed to take measures for protection against fire collectively. That is to say, the general public maintains fire departments, waterworks systems, employs fire marshals, passes building ordinances and takes various other steps toward fire prevention and fire extinguishment. These precautions are familiar to us all, and will not be considered in this paper.,
The additional precautions which the general public can take individually deserve our attention and consideration. The two general classes of such precautions are: First, taking steps to prevent fires from occurring; and second, being prepared for fires when they do occur. To prevent fires, householders should be taught the value of the following preventive measures: Use only metal barrels or receptacles for hot ashes. This should include, of course, barrels for ashes which are supposed to be cold, but which may contain a few hot embers. Do not allow rubbish and trash to accumulate anywhere on the premises, particularly in cellars, under stairways and in attics. Avoid handling benzine, gasolene and other inflammable fluids in the proximity of fire or lights. Use safety matches exclusively. The use of parlor matches is dangerous. This danger is usually insufficiently appreciated. The general public is seldom informed as to the large number of fires supposed to be caused by matches set off by rats, or mice, or children. Such fires would be avoided if safety matches only were used. Never fill kerosene lamps by candle or lamp light. There is danger in the improper use of elec trie lamps and electric wiring. The practice of hanging swinging pendant electric wires over gas pipes or nails always involves some danger, as does also leaving hot incandescent lamps close to clothing or other textile materials. Brick fire stops set near the corners in partitions and floors should be specified in new frame buildings. In built up communities one’s property should be protected from neighboring fires by means of fire, walls and wire glass in windows. The foregoing are a few preventive measures. Equally important are the measures for fire extinguishment. These include special equipment for extinguishment, such as: Automatic sprinklers with gravity tanks and fire pumps: such equipment being particularly desirable in mercantile and manufacturing buildings. Automatic and manual fire alarm systems by which alarms may be promptly transmitted when fires occur. Standpipes with hose and nozzles permanently atached, preferably controlled by gates out side the building. Portable chemical extinguishers of various sizes suitable to the property to be protected. Steamer connections through which the city fire engines can furnish water to the sprinklers or standpipes within the building to be protected. In addition to the foregoing, one of the most important precautions in which the fire department can assist the individual householders is in preparation for the event of fire. By preparation 1 do not refer to filling the hand grenades with benzine, as we are told is the customary procedure among some of our Hebrew fellow citizens, but I mean instruction as to what should be done by the different individuals in the household when fire occurs. Many of you are doubtless familiar with the story of the bedroom fire which a society lady was unable to control by means of the hand grenades provided for the purpose. After the house had been burned down, she could not understand how the fire had got away, “for,” she said, “I was very careful to lay all the grenades on the bed without breaking them, and and shut ihe bedroom door to keep the fire from getting out ” If this lady had been shown a chemical extinguisher in action once or twice, and had been allowed to operate it herself in practice it is probable that her home might have been saved. The first piece of instruction which most householders should receive is specific information as to the location of the nearest fire, alarm box to their premises, and instructions in the proper way to operate the box. By this means, as we all know, valuable time may be saved in getting the fire department to the scene, and in putting out the fire. The next essential line of instruction has reference to what might be called fire drill. That is to sav, systematic preparation for fire. Usually when fires occur there is a great deal of confusion, because no one knows just what to do. If the members of the household were definitely instructed in advance to perform cor tain duties in the event of fire, each would have a responsibility, and the chances are that panic would be avoided, and that useful concerted action would result. In one household where, by the way, all the occupants are each year given practice in extinguishing bonfires by means of chemical extinguishers, the duties in the event of fire have been assigned somewhat as follows: The nurse is to attend exclusively to getting the children out of the building and keeping them out of danger. One particular maid is to telephone to the fire department, as no fire alarm box is available. Others are expected to spread the alarm through the household and call in the man upon the place, who is expected to use, first, the chemical extinguishers, and then, if necessary, the garden hose. It is likely that some will say that such systematising is all very well in theory, but cannot be carried out in practice. This may be true in some cases, but it is better to be prepared for such an event as a fire with duties and assignments properly laid out in advance, than to be taken tin prepared and become involved in a confusion which a few minutes’ forethought would have avoided.
* Paper read before the September meeting of Massachusetts Firemen at Plymouth.
I have now briefly referred to a few precautions which the general public can take with advantage in anticipation of fire. The list might be very greatly extended, but I hope I have already said enough to show the advantage of preparation over procrastination when it comes to taking precautions against fire.