How to Make Fire Prevention Propaganda Count
The Sources of Co-operation Available—Staging Fire Department Exhibitions—Reaching the Various Type of lndividual—Value of the Press
IN China, the method of medical practice is based on the thought of prevention rather than on the idea of cure — so here in America we should take a lesson from the Chinese and arrange the fire department work with a view of fire prevention from the standpoint of cure or stopping the ravages of fire before it is started. It will be well to remember that cities are maintaining large fire departments solely to prevent something that they fear —fire. Fire Prevention Week is founded to commemorate the anniversary of the great Chicago fire and to prevent recurrences of conflagrations. The numerous civic organizations and societies which are interested in the welfare of the city naturally look towards the fire chief for leadership in planning the proper observance of Fire Prevention Week.
Sources of Co-operation
The problem resolves itself into the query, “Who can I rely upon for assistance?” The answer depends on just what particular type of person the campaign will be directed to. The best and most plastic of all material is the child attending school. The proper way to reach the children attending school is through the cooperation of the school officials and the teachers. Some cities include work on fire prevention in their school curriculum. The factory worker can be reached through noonhour meetings and articles inserted in the newspapers, while the average adult can be reached through the channels of the press, direct solicitation and the pulpit. Cities which have a large foreign population should not fail to consider this type in planning the educational campaign.
Working With the Children
There is a certain child-psychology which must be borne in mind when planning to solicit their co-operation. They are staunch believers in hero worship, they feel proud when invested with some mock authority, they are amused with pictures and best of all they are ideal carriers of propaganda.
First consider the boy scout, girl scout, camp fire girls and other organizations whose membership consists of children. Impress on them the importance of the problem and request each one to scout for fire hazards. So that in their zeal to cooperate they might not become pests, they should be organized in groups with district captains and so forth. The individual in charge should make a report to the fire chief. It is possible by this method that a number of unthought of fire hazards will be discovered.
Members of the fire department who are able to address a public gathering should appear in uniform and give short talks in the various class rooms. The children could be told of the various dangers of fire and in particular, stress could be laid on the hazard of playing with fire and dangerous material. Any literature which it is desired to distribute can be circulated through this channel. It is sure to find its way into the homes, and the child fired with the importance of disseminating information, will carry most of the facts to the older individuals of the household.
Plays can be staged and recitations given in school assemblies on this subject. Drawing lessons may be so arranged that material hearing on fire prevention can be utilized.
Reaching the Factory Worker
Have you ever visited a large factory during the noon-hour period? If the weather is fair, the workers will be found lolling about waiting for the one o’clock whistle to blow. Consequently a speaker, which at first hand appears to break the monotony of routine, will be found most acceptable. And especially if he represents the fire department, he will be most appreciated. In addition to the importance of abolishing fire hazards, the lecturer should stress the importance of fire exits, and how to properly turn in a fire alarm.
You will be surprised at how few, when asked suddenly where the fire alarm box is, can direct you to the nearest box. In addition, a large number don’t know how to properly turn in an alarm. A plan that has met with success in some of the fire department lectures, was the placing of fire alarm boxes connected with a gong on the platform so that the audience could see the effect of pulling the lever of a fire alarm box.
Educating the Foreign Resident
In preparing a fire prevention campaign in cities where there is a large foreign population, attention should be paid to putting the message across in the foreign quarter. This can be done either by personal contact through lecturers who understand the foreign tongue or by co-operation from the foreign language press.
The teachers of English to foreigners in some of the evening high schools can supply you with students who, in order to gain experience in public speaking, would be pleased to carry your message to people of their nationality. Editors of papers that cater to this class would be glad to co-operate if the fire chief points out the importance of fire prevention to the welfare of the city. Do not make the mistake of preparing copy for translation in foreign tongues. Certain terms in our language can not be translated, and certain phrases which while they may be forceful and grammatically correct in foreign tongues fall flat when translated into English. Give the ideas and topics to the editor and he will know how to play on the emotions and reasonings of his readers.
The Value of the Clergy
Members of the clergy are generally respected and looked up to as leaders and men of learning. Any suggestions or warnings. that reaches the adult by way of the pulpit is considered to have more weight. If the churches in your city can be induced to co-operate and have a fire prevention Sunday, then the thought will be put across simultaneously in all the churches and will be the basis of conversation in various gatherings.
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Making Fire Prevention Propaganda Count
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Telling it Through the Press
The chief in the smaller city or town will, as a rule, have better co-operation from the press than the tire department officials in the larger cities. News is scarce in the smaller communities and some of the editors in order to till up their columes resort to the use of “boiler plate ’from publicity agencies. This is matter which is supplied to newspapers in the form ot cuts so that the trouble of make-up and type setting is removed. The chief will find that his copy will be published in its entirety and he should avail himself of the columns and space which is thus placed at his disposal.
Due to the cost and lack of facilities, the small-town editor will shy at the use of illustrations with your article.
The chief of the larger city should have a number of sheets mimeographed and distributed to the various newspaper city editors in which, in outline form, the various events of Fire Prevention Week are mentioned. These might include drills, exhibitions and so forth, and a reporter will be sent, no doubt, to cover the assignment. Newspapers which publish a large mid-week, Saturday or Sunday edition will be pleased to print a full page story of your department, the importance of fire prevention, and your problems in trying to reduce the city’s fire losses. Use plenty of illustrations so that the story will be interesting.
It is not at all difficult to attract a crowd. The smaller towns and villages will get very good results from attracting the attention of the public through fire drills and exhibitions which should be held every night during Fire Prevention Week. Incidently, it may also result in building up the moral of the department and assist in obtaining fire department appropriations. The larger cities can hold mock fire rescues from large office buildings during the noon hour when most of the workers are on the streets. This is a plan that is always well receivedrushing fire engines, firemen and ladders will draw a large crowd in very short order.
If in addition to the mock rescues, the incident is well covered by the newspaper photographers and reporters, the value of the propoganda will be increased. Exhibitions at night with a large number of searchlights focused on the scene will form a desirable agency through which the chief can disseminate information on the prevention of fire.
Large department stores through the proper window displays can assist the fire department materially.
Each City Individual Problem
Each city forms an individual problem and it is therefore difficult to present some set rule of procedure for effectively observing Fire Prevention Week. The main problem is not so much how to observe the opportunity for teaching the public the importance of guarding against fires, as it is to overcome the mental inertia of some of the fire chiefs to depart from a fixed method of procedure. This article is prepared mainly as an answer to a question which will arise in a number of fire department circles, “How can I get aid and assistance in putting this over to the public?” While some of the suggestions mentioned may not be applicable in all cases, a number of the propaganda agencies mentioned can be found in the average American city and should be utilized. Most civic movements require some one to start the “ball a-rolling” and when once yon let it be known that you are planning the proper observance of Fire Prevention Week, you will be surprised at the number of individuals and organizations who wilt be delighted to co-operate.
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