How to Produce a Year-Round Fire Prevention Program
Tips on running a public education campaign based on Philadelphia experience
IN THE LAST DECADE, the City of Philadelphia has accumulated a truly fantastic fire prevention record. In the Fire Prevention Contest sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association, Philadelphia has been first in cities with a population of 500,000-and-over, eight times in the past 11 years! In three of these eight years, Philadelphia won the Grand Award.
In the Inter-Chamber Fire Safety Contest sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, Philadelphia has been first in cities of 500,000-and-over seven successive times—while in two of those years, Philadelphia won the Grand Award for cities of all sizes.
The City of Philadelphia has long been associated with protection against fire and, I use the phrase “protection against fire” advisedly. When the city was laid out by William Penn in 1681, squares were left vacant to which the citizens could flee in times of conflagration. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin founded the first fire fighting organization, the Union Fire Company. In 1752, the first fire insurance company was founded by Benjamin Franklin.
Despite the reverence in which we hold these historic gentlemen, theirs was a negative approach. In the case of the “squares” of William Penn’s day, they were only effective and useful in time of fire. Benjamin Franklin’s fire company was only of use after fire was discovered while his insurance company paid for losses after lives and property had been destroyed by fire.
The modern Philadelphia approach is to educate the public to the necessity of fire prevention. It strives to appeal to the basic intelligence of the people, guided by community leadership, so that the responsibility of each citizen is readily recognized. Philadelphia believes this dynamic leadership should be supplied by the fire service and a combined citizen fire prevention committee. It is recognized that the mightiest effort at fire prevention—by the fire department alone—will fall far short of a maximum result. There is nothing new in the remark that fires are started by men, women and children.
At the outset—to preclude the thought that this is big city stuffanyone can tailor fire prevention according to local circumstances. The idea is to reach every possible segment of the population with a fire prevention message that will awaken them to action.
Gef good people fo help
If you are in a large city, you should have a citizen’s fire prevention committee and a fire prevention public relations committee. It should be the duty of these committees to work with the fire department exclusively. In order that commerce, industry and the mercantiles are not neglected, a close liaison should be maintained with your fire prevention committee or your fire safety committee of the Chamber of Commerce. Members of either of these latter committees should serve on the committees who work with the fire department.
On the citizens’ fire prevention committee should be those with genuine knowledge of fire prevention; on the public relations committee, you should have public relations people and representatives of the press, television, radio, and all others who have to do with any media of communications. These are the idea men who can really help to put your program across with, and through, the media in which they are interested.
Use a task force
No total fire prevention program is possible without the wholehearted cooperation of the fire department. In every fire department someone is responsible for fire prevention. Within this fire prevention division, there should be a fire prevention task force. The size of this task force would, of course, depend on the size of the city and the fire department. Please remember, we are talking about a yearround fire prevention effort.
This task force work is a yearround operation. Men work in both the public and parochial schools—with games and everything that will catch and hold the children’s attention. In order not to interrupt the work of fire prevention education, the task force visits all of the recreation centers and schoolyards throughout the summer. They cover the hospitals and other institutions where safety to life is concerned. They answer all calls from industry for a fire prevention program. They coordinate other fire prevention efforts within the fire department and with the various committees.
Take advantage of national efforts
Fire Prevention Week should be kept in its proper perspective—being either the cilmax of 51 weeks of effort or the beginning of a new fire prevention year. Fire Prevention Week is the glamorous side of fire prevention with a major effort being made to saturate. In the one week, as many people as possible.
Continued on page 59
Continued from page 38
On the first day of Fire Prevention Week, there should be a center-city parade ending in some prominent place for brief outdoor exercises. This should be followed by a luncheon at which the mayor, the president of the city council, the city manager, fire commissioner, and other prominent citizens are present.
I place great importance on this particular luncheon. Everyone who has taken part in fire prevention should be present. This is the time to express thanks and appreciation to those who have given so generously of their time and effort. The school authorities, both public and parochial, should be present, for their cooperation with the fire department’s fire prevention task force is priceless and should be acknowledged.
The open house at the fire stations during Fire Prevention Week is ot tremendous importance to the fire department in building good public relations. The individual fire stations conduct little poster contests in their neighborhood schools for which the community merchants donate prizes. The fire stations decorate, inside and out, with trophies for the best displays.
If your city is of sufficient size, there should be area parades on other days with a community “Miss Fire Prevention” and, aside from the fire department float, others can be provided by the businessmen of the community. Use posters, signs, banners, articles in the neighborhood newspapers, house organs or bulletin boards, window displays, displays in the lobbies of banks and hotels, signs on the rear of taxicabs or any vehicle (particularly those of large industrial organizations who have a number of trucks)—in short, any space available for carrying the fire prevention message to the greatest number of people.
Don’t miss a bet
No effort is overlooked to bring out a fire prevention message. Floats and parades are of great importance; however, to obtain maximum efficiency, parades should end up at an athletic field. At the field, present a fire department skill show with television and radio personalities to entertain the children.
On the subject of floats, the fire department should select its best float or floats and then enter them in everybody’s parades on other days of the year such as Thanksgiving Day, Easter, Columbus Day, or whatever occasions are considered gala events locally. The message should be broadcast from the pulpit to the football field. The school children should be provided with little pieces alluding to the day, such as Valentine Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the like.
All of this costs money, you say. Sure; but who knows of better promoters than the members of the fire department? You get the paper from one source, the printing from another, and the first thing you know, you have a lovely message for the children appropriate for the day.
The tagging of Christmas trees is important. The Boy Scouts can do this—and gladly. Incidentally, both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts are trained in fire prevention by members of the task force in conjunction with the members of the fire school.
Enter national contests
Last, but certainly not least, you should enter the Fire Prevention Contest conducted by the National Fire Protection Association, and if you have a Chamber of Commerce, you should enter the Inter-Chamber Fire Safety Contest conducted by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. Entering these will coordinate and sharpen your fire prevention efforts. Awards of recognition for our human endeavors are a tremendous incentive to our continued high performance.
The voluntary home fire inspection is a tremendous fire prevention tool. Home inspection not only tends to make a home more fire-safe, but it makes an adult and a parent fireconscious. This, in turn, supplements the fire prevention education given the children in the school. A junior fire department brings the children into close contact with members of the fire department. A child’s fascination with the fireman in uniform is very real. In the children is our last best hope for the future.
Other tremendous aids for Fire Prevention Week, in particular, are stuffers for the food hags of the shoppers in supermarkets, small enclosures in billings from the larger department stores, and mail cancellations from the central post office for approximately 10 days prior to, and during Fire Prevention Week. Fire prevention cards in buses, street cars, and suburban trains are also a great aid, as those who ride are largely a captive audience.
As you go all-out in a fire prevention effort, you will find results are not so intangible after all. If you do your job well, soon you will note a lesser number of building fires, with a lessened loss of life and a lessened monetary fire loss.
Give freely of your time and effort to fire prevention. Fire fighters connot devote time to anything more worthwhile. You will find great satisfaction in giving of yourself, and if y.ou save one human life, you will be more than repaid for everything you put into the effort.