Fires in Hospitals
In 1919 and 1920 some 870 fires occurred in hospitals in the United States. The National Board of Fire Underwriters is responsible for this statement, 406 occurring in 1919 and 464 in 1920. This, it will be seen, is an average of more than one fire per day in both of these years.
That such a condition of affairs could be possible in this modern age, with its teachings on Fire Prevention, seems well nigh incredible but one has only to look back over the record of 1922 to realize this truth. The year just past will probably fully come up to the record of previous ones in this respect.
The causes of hospital fires, as tabulated by the National Board show another significant fact. It is that the greatest number of hospital fires arose, not from any internal defect or carelessness on the part of the staffs or employees of these institutions, but from “sparks on shingle roofs.” The total loss from this cause amounts, according to the figures of the board, in two years to $186,685. The next cause in respect to loss, is defective chimneys and flues with $139,349.
These two causes of fires in hospitals are very easily remedied. They also are such evident risks that the wonder is that they have not long ago been provided against. It is bad enough to construct dwellings, factories and business buildings with unlined chimneys and inflammable roofs, but the policy which, to save a few dollars, includes in the construction of a building designed to house helpless and sick folk, such hazards as these forms of construction contain, is reprehensible in the extreme.
The construction of new hospital buildings should by law be so regulated that every precaution against fire must be taken. The law should also provide that after a certain period defects of such buildings already erected should be remedied.
The reconstruction of a roof and the lining of chimney flues are not such terribly expensive operations that these provisions need prove impossible burdens on the finances of hospitals and every similar institution. Especially as against this expense is set the preservation of the lives of thousands of helpless human beings.