How Albany, Ga., Won Fire Waste Award
Chief Brosnan Tells of His Methods which Won This Distinction for His City—Other Awards of Fire Waste Council
FOR the second consecutive year the city of Albany, Ga., has been awarded, through its chamber of commerce, the grand prize in the Inter-Chamber Fire Waste Contest on the National Fire Waste Council, of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. In this contest the chairman of the contest committee, Richard E. Vernor, Manager of the fire prevention department of the Western Actuarial Bureau, reported 528 official entries in the contest as contrasted with 442 a year ago. The contest includes 58.5% of all eligible local chambers. The committee also encouraged chambers of commerce to submit reports covering their 1926 activities to the Contest Grading Committee. Three hundred and three reports were received as compared with 221 last year.
In describing his work, which was responsible for the award on two successive years to Albany, Chief D. W. Brosnan. in an address before the Arkansas Association of Insurance Agents and the Lions Club, said in part as follows:
Albany, Georgia, has made such an outstanding record in fire prevention and control, that I have been asked to tell just how we have been able to steadily reduce our fire waste to the point where our per capita fire loss is the lowest in the United States, being for 1926 only forty-four cents, as compared with the national per capita loss of five dollars. I shall endeavor to tell you some of the methods which we have employed to protect the citizens of our community from fire, and to explain how, in our humble judgment, other cities can do likewise.
I shall attempt to discuss the different phases of fire safety in the order in which we think they rightly belong;—Fire prevention. Protection of life, Protection of property, Fire extinguishment and Salvage.
Fire prevention comes first in the control of fire waste, for there can be no loss of fife or property damage in the fire that is not allowed to start. We have put forth more effort in fire prevention than we have in fire extinguishment. Our records of fires are most complete. They show the cause of every fire, and. if you know the cause, it is not a hard matter to apply a preventive.
First, we adopted the National building code, and we have rigidly and fearlessly enforced its requirements. This makes for safe building construction. Standard walls are required; exposures must be protected in a standard manner and safe exits must be provided. Buildings are restricted as to heights and occupancies. All chimmeys are built from the ground and fined with terracotta flue fining. Wood shingles are outlawed in the construction of new buildings and only ten per cent, renairs are allowed in any one year on present wooden roofs. The antishinele law has been in effect for five years. I quote results obtained as shown by our records. During the year 1916 tile percentage of fires caused by sparks on wood shingle roofs was eighty-seven, as against forty-one per cent, during the year 1926. We must admit that the only practical method of preventing this common cause of conflagration—fires starting on wood shingle roofs—is to abolish the wood shingle. Five years hence our record will be clear of this hazard, for after that time there will not be a wood shingle roof in our city. Chimneys should Inbuilt from the ground and fined with terracotta flue lining.Hearths and ash pits should be inspected during construction to see that they are properly installed. Heating plants, if installed properly, give no further trouble other than to see that smoke pipes are renewed and replaced when burned out. There is really no excuse for a fire starting in a dwelling that has a hard roof, properly constructed chimneys and safe electric wiring, if the occupants practice just a reasonable amount of carefulness. Fverv building in Albany is inspected once each year by a uniformed fireman. Mercantile, factory and public buildings are inspected monthly. The main purpose of these inspections is to see that all unnecessary waste material is removed from the premises, to check up electric circuits and heating equipment, to sec that laws regulating the storage and handling of volatile liquids is being complied with and to see that exits and fire escapes are in order and unobstructed.
Where we have information through mercantile reports and business circles that a mercantile risk is in financial straits, we increase the vigilance of our inspections to once a week. We also find out what insurance agent carries the line and check up on the amount of insurance carried. If we have reason to believe the stock is insured for more than its value, we request a reduction of the fine. Our requests are always complied with, for our department cooperates most Lilly with the local agents. Rack of all this, we have our night fire patrol. A uniformed fireman, equipped with an electric lantern, looks into evenmercantile risk in the business district twice each hour during the night and goes through every cotton warehouse in the city three times each night. During one season our patrol discovered seven fires in cotton warehouses; the damage was confined to one bale in each instance and loss on the seven fires did not exceed two hundred dollars. By the adoption of these methods, you can see there is small chance of arson, for we put the fear of the fire department into their heart when it comes to a question of a crooked fire. They know it is far safer to bankrupt than to burn We follow this up with rigid prosecution if there is evidence of arson. By this system of rigid inspection, we also discover incipient fires, the department gets the alarm promptly, and the loss is held to a minimum.
It is essential that the cause of each fire be determined, so we exhaust every effort toward this end. Last year we determined the cause of every fire except one. A camera is carried as a part of our regular equipment and a picture is made of every fire. The camera reveals what we may fail to sec, and tells the story at a later date, if need be. We believe that ninety five per cent, of all fires arc due to carelessness, improvidence, ignorance and dishonesty. I have explained how we deal with dishonesty, and the other three factors can be cared for through the enforcement of regulations and the education of the public.
We sell fire prevention to the public through the press, where we have news items covering fire prevention; editorials and paid advertising to emphasize our ideas. We get the cooperation of all the civic bodies and clubs through talks and special fire prevention programs at their meetings. Each year we are given the sup port of the pulpit through sermons on fire prevention in the various churches in our community. Addresses arc made in all the city schools, and fire prevention is a part of their regular work. Every pupil makes a fire inspection of his home and through the teacher returns to the fire department a home fire inspection blank properly filled out. In this way we are not only educating the boy and girl (who will lie tinman and woman of tomorrow) in matters of fire safety, but we are getting fire prevention before the mothers and fathers in the homes, and showing them some of tinhazards of fire. Fire prevention parades of floats furnished by civic organizations and participated in by outstanding citizens carrying banners with slogans on tire hazards, catch the eyes of some people who would not be reached otherwise. During fire prevention week outdoor talks arc made to assemblies of people from the rural districts. Wo attempt to reach especially the conn try negroes and to discourage their practice of locking their children in their homes while they are at work in the fields. How often wc read accounts in our daily papers of children burned to death in their homes through this criminally careless practice.
Protection of Life
In this branch of our work we have, indeed, been successful, for during our seventeen years of service, we have never lost a life or had any of our citizens injured in a tire. This unusual record has not been accidental or a matter of luck, but it has been accom plished through a constant and careful study of hazards in all buildings of public assembly and of sleeping quarters of every character, and by the rigid enforcement of regulations that safeguard human life under adverse conditions. All places of public gathering must have the required number of exits and they must be properly marked. All aisles must be unobstructed at all times, and every reasonable safeguard furnished for the individual protection of all occupants. Every school building is equipped with fire drill gongs, and a fire alarm hox connected with fire department headquarters is provided on each floor of every school building. Fire drills arc required semi monthly and arc supervised by the fire department.
Family garages are not allowed in dwellings or apartments, nor do we permit the storing of automobiles or any volatile liquid in buildings used for sleeping quarters or places of public assembly, unless tile building is entirely of fire proof construction.
Protection of Property
Despite precautions we still have fires. A modern fire alarm system with an alarm box within easy reach of every citizen is one of the first essentials of a weti organized fire department.
Dependable fire apparatus of standard manufacture which will deliver the goods when called upon and plenty of fire hose that will stand the gaff and will not burst under the strain of service are absolutely necessary. There must be an abundant supply of water delivered under high pressure through a distributing system of pipes of sufficient size not to cut too heavily on volume and pressure through loss by friction. Present day hazards require special equipment for handling fires. We use a foam generator in oil and other fires of like kind that have to be smothered out and we use one and one-half inch hose lines where it is practical to do so.
Good equipment, however, for combatting fires would be of little service unless efficiently handled.
Most of our success in extinguishment of fires may be attributed to the prompt covering of exposed buildings on arrival of the department at the scene of the fire. The necessary equipment goes into service and hose lines arc laid with an eye single to confining the fire to the building involved, but at the same time to be so positioned that we can protect surrounding property if need be.
As proof of the efficiency of this method of action, we have never had two dwellings to burn in the same fire, nor has a fire extended from one mercantile establishment to another during our seventeen years of service.
Firemen must be trained to handle equipment with speed and skill. This can be accomplished best by weekly drills to familiarize them with the apparatus. Compulsory daily exercise keeps the men physically fit to do the laborious work of fire fighting, but it is more important that firemen be directed to use their brains.
In process of extinguishment, the question of salvage becomes paramount. In our department the hose and tarpulin covers race each other, for when water is applied above it is necessary to cover the property below if the loss is to be curtailed. We carry roofing material on our ladder trucks to cover the roof where it is burned or when it is necessary to open the roof for purposes of ventilation. This method prevents water damage in case of rain. In a recent dwelling fire, where the fire loss did not exceed one hundred dollars, we had just completed the temporary roof when a downpour of rain occurred that would have damaged the building and contents several thousand dollars.
I hese are some of the means by which we have tried in Albany to put theory into practice. Now let us see what have been the results. I shall quote figures taken from our records in proof of our accomplishments. As stated before there has been no loss of life or injury to a single person in a fire.
I hese figures cover both the insured and uninsured loss. From this record it will be noted that we are reducing the number of fires through our fire prevention activities, and that we are curtailing tinloss through tnore efficient methods of operation. We are having fewer fires than we had ten years ago. and the loss has been reduced notwithstanding the fact that in that time our city has almost doubled its population and the amount of property under protection has increased proportionately. These results have been accomplished notwithstanding the increased values of buildings and their contents. Our average per capita loss the past five years has been approximately one dollar, and for three of the five years, the loss has been less than fifty cents per capita. Through the earnestness of our efforts and the results obtained we have Rained the confidence of the public and they have given us their continued cooperation and support. In carrying out these measures we have tried to lead instead of drive the public, to gain their intelligent cooperation instead of their selfish antagonism.
Our department is operated economically, but we never allow economy to overstep efficiency. The operating cost this year will be about thirty-five thousand dollars or less than two dollars per capita We have received national recognition of our work for fire prevention as follows: In the year 1924 the United States Chamier of Commerce awarded us a bronze plaque for the best record of any city in the country under 20,000 population. In 1925, we won the grand award over all cities in the country irrespective of size. In 1926 we won the grand award over all cities irrespective of size for the second time, and the contest grading committee further commended us by stating that we were miles ahead of any other American city in fire prevention and control. Such recognition from such a source makes the work well worth while.
For such an outstanding showing, the insurance rating bureaus had to give us credit. In 1922 our base classification was reduced from second to first class. In 1926 our base classification was reduced to first class minus five points. You. Gentlemen, know just how hard it was to put this over, but our record spoke for itself, and it had to be recognized and rewarded by the underwriters. We are entitled to still lower rates on certain classes of risks and I feel confident we will get them.
These reductions in rates save our taxpayers approximately ninety thousand dollars each year. So. to our mind and to that of the average citizen of Albany, there is no question but that fires can he prevented and losses reduced, for we have fully demonstrated the theory in its practical application.
Other awards winners in this contest, as announced by George W. Booth, chief engineer of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, as chairman of the contest grading committee, were, in their respective classes, the Milwaukee, Wis., Association of Commerce in Class 1; Huntington, W. Va., Chamber of Commerce, in Class 2; and Owensboro, Ky., Chamber of Commerce, in Class 3. The honor cities in Class 1, cities of over 100,000 population were:
Philadelphia, Pa. Portland, Ore. Rochester, N. Y. Detroit. Mich. New Orleans, La.
Indianapolis, Tnd. Fort Worth, Tex. Seattle, Wash. Grand Rapids. Mich. Wilmington, Del.
In Class 2, cities of 50,000 to 100,000 population, the honor cities were:
Pasadena, Calif. New Britain, Conn. Springfield, Ohio. Bay City. Mich. McKeesport, Pa.
Bethlehem, Pa. Fresno, Calif St. Joseph, Mo. Charleston, W. Va. Wichita, Kan.
Class 3 honor cities, comprising those between 20,000 and 50,000 population, were:
Yakima, Wash. Mansfield, Ohio. Battle Creek. Mich. Petersburg, Va. Uniontown, Pa.
Butler, Pa. Baton Rouge, La. Hagerstown. Md. Lorain, Ohio. Riverside, Calif.
In Class 4, cities of under 20,000 population, the following were honor cities:
Billings, Mont. Fullerton, Calif. Laconia, N. H. Oceanside. Calif. Weston, W. Va. Torrance, Calif.
Marlow. Okla. Pekin, 111. Fremont, Mich. Ardmore. Okla. Blackwell, Okla,
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How Albany Won Fire Waste Award
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The Council authorized the Board of Judges to give honorable mention for their state to those cities whose record, in the opinion of the Board merited this distinction. The following cities were accordingly selectee for this honor, all having made the best record in the contest in their respective states: