HOW THE CHIEF CAN EMPHASIZE THE NEED OF FIRE SAFETY IN THE HOME
Addresses Such as the Following Will Bring Home to the Householder the Need of Fire Prevention
THE importance and advantages of a definite plan to be followed in case of fire can not be over emphasized. The broad statement is made because fire is no respecter of persons, time or place. Fortunately, it is influenced by a few very common, easily understood natural laws. These laws are almost as simple as the law of gravity and if we will but recognize and respect them we will avoid many disastrous fires.
Heat and flames rise rapidly unless influenced by a draught or baffle. You can easily prove this law by experimenting with a lighted candle and a match. After placing a lighted candle in a convenient position where there is no draught approach it with an unused match at first holding the head of the match about 6 inches directly above the flame. Now very slowly lower the match, carefully noting its distance from the flame at the time the match is ignited. Take a new match and slowly approach the flame from the side or horizontal position and again from below. If you have never tried this experiment, you are going to be surprised at the results. You will find that the heat travels up much more readily than you realized. The danger to life from this natural law is emphasized by an actual experience.
Lack of Knowledge Cost Two Lives
Not long ago a housewife attempted to stimulate her kitchen fire with a little kerosene. With a flash the vapor exploded, scattering flames about the room and before she hardly realized what had happened the room was ablaze. Fortunately, she was not injured by the blast. The first thing she thought of was the safety of her baby asleep upstairs and she dashed frantically from the kitchen, ran up the stairway to the second floor, rushed to the bedroom and seized the child from its crib and started for the stairs.
The Fire Department arrived a few moments later, having responded to the alarm telephoned in by a nearby neighbor. They found the mother, with the child in her arms, both dead, in the upper hall and neither with a mark on them. Mind you, the fire was confined to the lower floor.
Let us analyze this most unfortunate catastrophe.
Did Not Know that Heat Rises
Heat rises. That is why the mother who had fortunately escaped the explosion which set fire to the kitchen was killed as she ran in the upper hall just a few seconds later. Rising heat from the fire below had flooded the upper hall. Temperatures above a blaze range from 1,000° to 1,800° and the hot air and gas rise very rapidly. and with increasing pressure. Naturally it rises to the ceiling, spreads out finding any other openings, such as doors, where it gushes out and is ever working upward. As the mother dashed up the stairway she was ahead of the heat. It represents that time it took for the kitchen to be filled with heat and gas down to a line with the top of the doorway and sufficient heat to gush out the door, travel up the stairway and fill the upper hall. There it killed her in her tracks.
What should she have done?
Very simple—In the first place she should never have kindled a fire with kerosene. Second, she should have dashed from the kitchen, securely closing the door behind her. In turn, she should have closed every door behind her as she passed through.
In all probability* if she had closed the kitchen door she could have run upstairs, returned safely with the child, and with comparative ease. She could have at least closed the bedroom door and have been rescued from a bedroom by the firemen, for, remember, even with the doors all left open, the fire never spread beyond the first floor.
The upper floor is the sleeping floor in the average home and those sleeping in this part of the house arc doubly exposed. A fire starting in the basement or lower floor can easily gain headway and with little chance of discovery. The rising heat can be deadly long before any fire exists, even in the upper halls.
The average two or more story residence is a fine fire trap. It has only one inside stairway and no fire escapes. Very few homes have emergency means of exit. The doors to most bedrooms in private homes are left open. A fire could start on the lower floor and the occupants never know about it until it was too late to even close the doors.
Loss of Life Often Due to Confusion
In the majority of cases, loss of life is due to confusion, accompanied by the shock of the first realization of the existence of a fire. This will be avoided if you have a definite plan firmly in mind. We have regular fire drills in the schools and it is indeed a slow school which is not cleared in less than two minutes. Two average city schools were timed in Pendleton and both cleared in less than one minute. Why not have a few home drills or at least a plan formulated, so that each individual would have a definite duty to perform?
Safety of Home Individual Responsibility
It is the duty of the State Fire Marshal to oversee the safety of and direct the means and adequacy of exit, in case of fire, from factories, asylums, hospitals, churches, schools, halls, theatres, amphitheatres and all other places where large numbers of persons work, live or congregate from time to time for any purpose, but it does not include the home. That is your responsibility. How well have you met it?
When you have stopped at hotels you have no doubt noticed signs and red lights marking the route to the fire escapes. You probably also noticed little glass paneled switches with small metal hammers hanging near them and marked “fire alarm.” The breaking of the glass in any one of these switches will cause fire alarm gongs to ring continuously throughout the building. It is thought by some that these switches call the Fire Department. They do not, but are installed to warn all within the building of a fire. Note well the route to the nearest fire escape before retiring and don’t forget it. You may be handicapped by heat and smoke, making it impossible to sec these signs when you most need them. Remember heat rises—the coolest part of the room will be near the floor. Many times you would be able to crawl along the floor with comparative ease, when it would be impossible to stand up.
Form a plan and follow it, for after all a poor plan well executed is far better than no plan.
(From a weekly broadcast by the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Department, under direction ot Hugh H Earle, State Fire Marshal.)