Fire Prevention In Action
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Mention fire prevention to some people and they will immediately think of small children and a school teacher. Some will recall the fire drill in good old Public School 33. Others, the warnings posted in their factory or office building concerning trash removal or frayed electrical wires. And the more cerebral might think about early (fire) warning devices and systems. This list, of course, could be endless. But the point we are trying to make is that to civilians—and some fire fighters—fire prevention means only one thing.
But fire prevention is a multi-faceted concept. And, as applied in the fire service, it is, or should be, a system of activities that prevent fires from happening or, failing that, reduce the consequences—loss of life and property.
The first step, of course, is to educate the public in the ways that fires start and, naturally, how not to start them. This is a hard nut to crack when you consider that cigarettes-matches, the use and misuse of electrical equipment and heating and cooking units represent the largest cause of fires, particularly in dwellings. Then there is alcoholism, a condition that causes many fires, but is never listed as a cause in national statistics.
We can see, then, that fire prevention education is not a simple matter. It involves items such as cigarettes and alcohol over which a fire department can have little influence. It becomes even more complex when we try to educate the public to the need for the promotion of building evacuation plans, hazardous material and devices safety and the installation of warning devices and protective equipment, among others.
Another step (and some would make this the first) is to enforce “building, safety and fire codes through inspection and legal procedures, licensing certain hazardous facilities and adopting codes and ordinances as required,” as is noted elsewhere in this issue.
As mentioned above, the secondary purpose of fire prevention is to reduce the consequences of fire, loss of life and property. This purpose tacitly implies that there will always be some fires no matter how well the populace is educated. The Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago changed the construction (and the safety) of theaters from then on. Factory buildings became safer as a consequence of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York. Now, there are some people who claim that smoke and fire detectors will reduce loss of life significantly, particularly in the home. They haven’t, as you can read elsewhere in this issue.
As you can guess on reading above, we have themed this issue to fire prevention—“Fire Prevention in Action.” And as you read this issue, you will find that fire prevention calls for a lot more than a brief flurry of activity during Fire Prevention Week.