Fire Prevention Laws with “Teeth”
The fire prevention work of Reading, Pa., which, by the way, is one of the few remaining large cities still under the volunteer fire department system, is conducted by a board composed of the chief of the fire department, two assistant chiefs, and one man from each of the 14 fire companies of the city. This body of men, working without salary and solely for the love of the work, controls the fire prevention situation of the city completely, and, according to Chief Niethammer in an article published in this week’s issue, efficiently.
Probably one of the principal reasons for the success of the Reading board’s fire prevention work, is the fact that the law which vests authority in it is armed with “teeth.” In other words the board is given power to enforce its orders, so that violations of the fire prevention ordinances or of the board’s recommendations are punishable, under certain conditions, with fine or imprisonment.
There is no doubt that this is the only successful plan of putting over fire prevention. People are often indifferent to a remarkable degree to the dangers which they run in allowing fire hazards to continue after they have been warned by the authorities to correct the condition. The American characteristic of taking the “Gambling Chance,” is one which is particularly marked in matters connected with fire hazards.
If, however, the individual who procrastinates in correcting these hazards is brought up short with the prospect of fine or imprisonment staring him in the face if he does not obey the orders to clean up and remove the objectionable features, he will act quickly and without hesitation. Laws with teeth are the greatest stimulation to the cause of fire prevention that a community can devise for its own protection.