LET us walk along the street.
Here’s a paint store. Walk in and look around. It is a three story frame building, store on the first floor and fourteen persons living upstairs.
In the rear of the store is a dark room filled with can and cans of stuff. Benzine, gasoline, linseed oil, turpentine, floor oil, crude oil, varnish and thinners, some in five gallon cans, some in ten gallon cans and some in barrel lots and here and there are found sixty gallon galvanized iron or tin tanks for turpentine and linseed oils. The floor is wet with oils and slippery. The wood is so oil-soaked that it could never be cleaned. Gas light for illuminating purposes and match sticks plainly visible on the floor. There isn’t any sand, no extinguishers, no water, not a bit of protection. The owner doesn’t know where the nearest fire alarm box is located. What would he do in case of fire? The question leaves him non-plussed. He never thought of it.
You tell him that his method of keeping oil is all wrong and he comes right back at you with the statement that he has been in the oil business in that particular building for the last nine years. In all that time he never had a fire. Well, you tell him he is just nine years nearer to a fire than he was when he started because a place like his is surely on the list.
This man has to be taken carefully in hand. For him and his kind you have to have a lot of laws handy. Try him without laws. Ask him what his insurance rate is on the building and on the contents of the store. Oh, yes, now he is willing to talk. His insurance rate is entirely too high, the insurance companies are high-handed in their dealings with clients, they fairly rob the poor business man so that he hasn’t a chance in the world to make a living. He has cut down his insurance from five thousand dollars to two thousand dollars because he couldn’t afford the exorbitant premiums on a five thousand dollar policy any longer. Now you’ve got him. Go after him. Does he know that his rate is high because of his own carelessness and neglect? Not at all, no, sir, not on your life.
Tell him insurance rates are based on scientific principles and that he can get five thousand dollars worth of insurance for the same price that his two thousand dollars worth of insurance is costing him. He wants to know how, right away. First, he must not carry oil in barrel lots inside his building. This isn’t necessary anyway, because he has a large yard back of his store. Let him build a shed of corrugated iron in his yard and put in his barrel stuff out there, keeping only five gallons or so in the store. When this runs out he can readily replenish his stock from the barrel supply.
Induce him to build a shelf or stand about three feet from the floor and arrange his five and ten gallon cans on this shelf. Make him get safety cans, the kind with faucets near the bottom. Tell him to build a trough under the faucets and about a foot above the floor. This is for any drippings from the cans and faucets. In the trough, which should be lined with tin, he can put a lot of clean white sand. Whenever this sand becomes oil-soaked or dirty he can replace it with clean sand. Put up two or three signs prohibiting smoking. Hang a few fire pails on hooks on the wall and fill them with sand. Put in a good three gallon chemical extinguisher. Post a little card near his telephone telling where the nearest fire alarm box is located and giving directions how to call up fire headquarters in case of fire. Throw out all his sixty gallon tanks.
When he has done all this tell him to ask the insurance companies for a new rating.
In the course of a month, Mr. Painter will tell you that he owes you a vote of thanks. The changes haven’t cost him anything to speak of and he has been more than repaid by the reduction in his insurance rates. Tell him you want to make his the model store of the town as far a9 safety goes and that you would like to refer to it from time to time and maybe send people in to look him over so that they, too, could put their stores in shape. He will appreciate the advertising value of this suggestion and will agree to change his gas to electric light in order to get rid of every known hazard. He will eat out of your hand. There’s everything in knowing how. He never gave these matters any thought. Of course not, he was busy selling oils and making money and all his ideas were along the one channel. Here is the value of careful inspection by a fireman who knows what he is talking about.
In this series of articles, of which we regret to say. this is the conclusion, the author has given some common sense rules that should certainly be applied.
The editor is trying to prevail on the author to write a new series and we hope to announce them shortly.— Editor.
There ought to be a license for selling oil. This is one of the things which will come up for consideration within a year of the beginning of these inspections. If you reach the idea of licensing paint stores make your license fee one dollar a year and see that the money goes in the firemen’s pension fund. There is a double reason for this suggestion. First, the amount of the license is not excessive and secondly, even if the applicant objects and says it is unfair to tax business men tell him it goes into the pension fund, toward which he would surely be willing to contribute one dollar a year if called upon. He’s done, he hasn’t any argument left, he gives up his dollar.
Once you make a man take out a license to carry explosive materials, you’ve got him and he must abide by the regulations. Otherwise you tell him you will take, away his license and prevent him from selling gasoline or benzine and the rest of these highly inflammable oils and he stops to consider.
These same ideas concerning inspections and carefulness and licenses apply equally to grocery stores where kerosene oil and matches are sold. It seems a mistake for grocers to sell kerosene oil. In England grocers are not permitted to keep or sell coal oil— that’s what they call it on the other side. The smell of oil gets on the butter and the cheese and there’s the dickens to pay. But the Yankee is not so finicky.
The Grocer and Kerosene
The grocer should keep a pail of sand near his kerosene oil tank. The can should be kept away from the stove. Some grocers have been found who insisted upon keeping the oil can almost tight up against the stove so that the oil would not “freeze.” And the law doesn’t permit you to hit a man like that, either, no matter how richly he deserves it. Do not permit kerosene oil to be kept in cellar. Matches and candles are too handy and on a dark day a olerk is sure to go to the cellar for oil and start something.
Matches ought to be kept in a tin box. A bread box or a tea canister is just the thing. This keeps them from being strewn around the store and on the floor and it keeps them out of harm’s way, generally. Whether mice can eat matches and start a fire is a moot question. Some say yes and some say nay and the chairman is in doubt. But keep the matches in a tin box for safety’s sake.
A little further down the street we run into a factory and this is the hardest nut to crack. Many states have separate departments for factory inspection and fire prevention. Few cities have such separate departments.
Factories are subject to building department supervision. the Board of Health takes a fling at them, the Child labor laws must be observed, accidents to workmen must be avoided because of the new compensation laws and there are other matters which weigh heavily upon the mind of the factory owner.
The factory is subject to inspection by too many departments, perhaps, but the fire prevention expert feels as though his was as important a subject as any of the others and he, too, looks for violations. This doesn’t add to the peace of the factory owner and he is apt to give a piece of his mind to the inspector. Making recommendations for protection against fire is not so simple a matter when an angry factory owner is the subject but there is a way to get at him, too. The factory has been growing for years and the fire hazards may not be as noticeable to the owner as to the inspector. But what a mistake to start right in and rattle off a lot of suggestions and recommendations as to what should be done.
Bettermake the first inspection easy. A word or two about the aecummulation of rubbish, maybe, and a short talk about fires generally will be enough. But the inspecting officer should be keen about this inspection and make mental notes which are later to be put on the department records. These notes must include all exit facilities, vertical openings,—that’s the way the technical man refers to stairways or elevator shafts or dumb-waiter wells or anything else that cuts a building vertically from floor to floor.
Study Your Report
Study these features of your report. Compare them with other reports of buildings in your city. Pick out the weak spots and in about a month go back after the factory owner and tell him you have given the matter a great deal of attention and you feel it to be your duty to point out to him just what defects you have found in his plant. Tell him‘to think it over and talk it over with his associates. Give him a list of your recommendations. You don’t expect him to make all the suggested changes over night, let him take his time, but tell him, and fnake this plain, that if there is a fire in that particular factory and anyone is burned to death or killed because one or more of the things which you recommend are not done, then you will make public the records in his case. That puts the moral responsibility right where it belongs. He feels the burden of this responsibility and it bothers him. He finally gets busy and does practically everything which you have recommended.
The man who will not co-operate willingly is a fool. Laws and ordinances must be made for such fellows and compulsion and punishment inflicted. The results are the same, he must safeguard his employees and why not be decent about it? Tell him so.
If the owner of the factory is willing let us take a trip through his plant. By all means have him come along. Remember this is the second inspection. The first inspection having allayed his fears that we intended to revolutionize his business in order to put into practise some new-fangled theories, he will be in a more cheerful frame of mind.
We will start in the; cellar. Let the inspecting officer run along in his talk in something like this strain ;—
“In a four-story brick factory like this, Mr. Manufacturer, you use up all the room you can, don’t you? I notice that you have a lot of stock down here in the cellar and 1 suppose it is worth a lot of money. Let me suggest that sometime when you feel in the mood you take up the matter of putting some pipes along the ceiling and starting a sprinkling system. One experience down here and I am sure you will never have to be told to sprinkle your entire plant.”
“What’s a sprinkler system?” he will want to know. “It is nothing more nor less than a system of water pipes suspended from the ceiling of your various floors. These pipes are equipped with what are known as sprinkler heads. The sprinkler heads are held shut with a soft solder that melts at about 160 degrees of heat. In case of fire these sprinkler heads open, the water in the pipes is released and water, flowing through the heads which have been opened, sprays over the fire and puts it out. It sprinkles water on the fire, hence a sprinkler system. If it’s a little fire and only one head opens the water runs through this one head only. If the fire is of larger dimensions, if it is a flash fire or if it covers considerable area, then more than one head opens and water runs through each head from which the fusible solder has melted. In nearly every case the sprinkler system puts out the fire. It’s like having a little automatic fireman on the job all the time, not only in one place but all over your plant. These little firemen neither eat nor sleep nor are they listed on your payroll. The insurance rate on your building is reduced so materially upon the installation of a sprinkler system that within three or four years you will find it has paid for itself. Think it over and read up about the sprinkler systems. It is worth your while.
“Say, Mr. Manufacturer, if I were you, I would change my system of lighting down here. Illuminating gas means matches and matches mean fire. Your gas brackets, at any rate, ought to be protected. This is not a new building and your ceiling beams are dried out. If you gas tip blows off and your gas blows against this dry woodwork for even half a minute you may have a lot of trouble.”
“Keep the Place Cleaner”
“Why don’t you tell the man who has charge down here to keep the place cleaner? Here’s a lot of rubbish that has been lying around for goodness knows how long. Suppose one of your employees comes down here to sneak a smoke? Oh, no, of course, none of your employees would think of doing such a thing.
I have heard that before. juut just suppose some one does do it and throws away a butt. Your very footsteps might scare him into some such action. There is apt to be a smouldering fire, and then, when all the air is heated down here and everything is ripe you will have a great blaze before anyone upstairs knows about it. If your cellar is kept clean you will have just that much less to worry about and this will not cost you any money. It wouldn’t cost you much, either, if you put in half a dozen red fire pails, filled with water. There isn’t anything down here now with which to fight a fire.”
“That’s a good suggestion,” he breaks in, “I never thought of that, but I’ll see that it’s done right away.”
“Put your hand on the ceiling here, over the boiler,” says the inspector. “Pretty hot, isn’t it. Better get your handy man to put some tin, here, leaving half an inch of air space. That spot has been hot just long enough. We have a good many fires marked ‘overheated boilers.’ The cause really is not an overheated boiler, it is lack of protection of woodwork near boilers. You can’t overheat a boiler very well. It is built to stand up against a lot of heat, but it is the woodwork at the sides and above a boiler that really cause the fires. You have a nice, high cellar, take it all in all. You have good light and room enough to walk around in. Firemen like this kind of a cellar to fight in. Let’s go upstairs.”
The first floor is fifty feet wide and ninety feet long. There is no means of exit on either side. The rear wall is closed and there is no other way out except the front entrance.
“Is that the only way out of this floor?” is the first and very natural query.
“Isn’t that enough?”
“Certainly not. Suppose there was a fire in the front part of your building. How could these men get out ?”
The manufacturer scratches his head and says “I never thought of that. No one ever called my attention to that and I have been here ten years!”
“Good record. But better get busy. What’s back of this, building? Nothing, eh? Well, that’s easy. Make a door out of one of those windows and mark it ’emergency exit.’ Give your men a chance to get out.”
The manufacturer agrees.
“Why not put some fire pails on this floor, too, and put some on every floor while you are at it. How many employees have you ?’’
“Thirty-five or thirty-six, something like that when we are running full.”
“Well, that’s as many as the fire department will send you on the first alarm. And they are the same kind of men, only our men have been trained and know just what to do in case of fire. Your men would run out and be in the way of the firemen. Now, if you felt so inclined you can arrange to use your own men and perhaps save yourself thousands of dollars. Let’s see, there are eight men on this floor. When you are putting up your fire pails put up eight fire pails right here and number them from one to eight. Then give each one of these eight men a number to corresspond and tell them that if there is a fire each man is to get his own fire pail and run to the fire with it. Make number one man the captain and, if you feel generous, buy a three-gallon chemical extinguisher and tell him that’s for him to use in case of fire. Tell each man you expect him to keep his pail filled with water. Here you have a fire department of your own right on the job all the time during working hours. You can do the same thing on every floor. Eight or ten pails of water at the right time are often worth their weight in gold. But be sure to tell some one in the office that if there is ever a fire in here no time is to be lost in getting telephonic communication to fire headquarters. If the firemen get here and find that the fire has been put out they will be more than pleased. Don’t make the mistake of letting your men try to put out the fire and then when it is too big for them to handle, to call out the public department to finish the job. The firemen would rather make one thousand runs and find no work to do than to make one run to a fire that some one else had tried to put out and failed. All fires are the same size at the start but the first five or ten minutes tell the story.
“Let me compliment you on your good housekeeping. This floor is kept exceptionally clean. low about the second floor?”
Good housekeeping is in evidence on the second floor and the third and fourth floors and you tell him so. Don’t make the mistake of using all your talk in criticism and suggestion and recommendation. Any chump can do that because it is easy to find fault. But pick out the bright spots as well and mention them as they come to your notice. A man who tries to do what is right feels encouraged when an expert tells him he is doing well.
On the upper floors you find two stairways and a front fire escape. But there is no rear outlet and you suggest a fire escape in the rear, explaining that in the event of a fire in the front of the building the employees would be trapped.
Let the manufacturer tell you where his most valued possessions are stored. He will probably tell you his records are of great value and could not be duplicated. You find these records in wooden cabinets. The mere mention of what his loss might be in the event of fire generally convinces him that steel fire-proof cabinets would be a splendid investment. Then, by way of farewell, just say to him:—
“After you have done all I have suggested and have put up a dozen ‘No Smoking’ signs, send for your insurance broker and ask that your factory be re-rated.. You will be surprised to find that the insurance companies will hand you a check as a rebate on your insurance premiums. They would rather insure a good factory at a low rate than a hazardous factory at a high rate. They not only say so but they prove the statement with good money.”
But you enter another factory where girls are employed and you find an entirely different proposition. The very nature of the cotton goods in process of manufacture means a quick fire if anything ever gets started and the exits are of paramount importance. Yhe usual line of fire protection devices comes next in order, including the installation of a sprinkler system. Don’t forget the sprinkler system for it is a life saver as well as a property saver and is by far the most efficient of all modern methods of individual fire protection.
Watch the Exit Facilities
But first of all the exit facilities. There can be no hard and fast rule, opinions differ as to the best means of exit from a factory building. Some there be who insist upon vertical fire-proof walls so that employees may go from one side of a building to another for temporary safety and thence to the street. Others stand fast for outside fire escapes. Some demand inside fire towers and all insist upon enclosed elevators. But these are not always to be secured in old buildings. Get what you can. Insist upon fire drills. Take all the male help and have them divided into fire-fighting companies according to floors with a floor captain over each and a factory chief over all. Some of the men must be detailed to help the women and some to fight the fire. The problem of looking after the women is serious. Such terrible calamities have marked the factory records of this country that officials are warranted in using every known means to prevent repetition. No one, factory owner, building owner or official, wants to be charged at the bar of public opinion. with being responsible for the death of factory employees.
The idea of personal responsibility is the keynote of such an inspection as this. Don’t let the owner put off with the statement that the superintendent or the foreman is responsible. He, he owner, is the only one solely responsible. Press this fact home and make him listen to you. Tell him to put in a system of fire alarm gongs which are for use only in an emergency. The fire alarm signal should be three rings, three ring or three buzzes on the alarm system. The girls are to pe grouped in sections of ten members each with an experienced leader at the head of each group. Call these group leaders together and tell them what they arc expected to do in the event of fire. At the sound of the gong, everybody is to stop work. At the second sound everybody rises. At the third sound all the chairs, benches and baskets are pushed under the tables or out of the aisles. All this is simple but it gives the girls something to think about, something to do and this is the best panic-preventive known. Confusion is due to lack of fixed attention upon some specific duty. The fire gong supplies that duty instantly, the first blow kills a panic and when the girls look up after having cleared the aisles they are already under discipline. The group leader points and leads the way toward the exit which she has already fixed upon in her mind to use. She gets all her girls to safety and doesn’t worry about anyone else for she knows that all the others are being similarly provided for and safeguarded.
“Don’t let anyone stop for hats or wraps or pocketbooks. These are trifles compared to human life and the desire to recover these trinkets has cost many lives. Don’t have too many fire drills. Don’t make the mistake of having fire drills so frequently that the girls take it as a joke. In time of a real fire they may become unmanageable as soon as they learn it is serious. Make them believe it is serious all the time.”
Every building more than one story high in which women are employed should be sprinklered and there should be a law to that effect but we have not yet reached that legal age, except in the large cities. The inspecting officer should offer his services in establishing a fire drill. When properly conducted under the supervision of a member of the fire department in uniform, the drill means something. Work with the factory owner and work for him until you get his plant in such condition that neither he nor the city officials need worry overmuch. There is always danger in a factory building, no matter what is lreing manufactured nor how well-built the plant. When the employer invites human beings to enter his building and work for him he assumes the moral obligation of protecting them from death and injury and unless he does all within his power he alone is to blame.
These articles are not intended as a technical treatise on fire prevention. They are, rather, a common sense guide to the man who is wiling to do his share of the duty that lies before him.
The idea has been to lend a helping hand to fire chiefs and others interested, to start them on their way. When they have gone as far as this, they, too, will realize the vast importance of this work of saving lives and property.