Inspection An Important Part of Firemen’s Work
An Essential Element in Fire Prevention—Fireman Should Know His Buildings Thoroughly—Suggested Instructions to Firemen-Inspeetors
IN the following article the author gives some valuable hints as to the proper training of firemen in the important work of inspection. He emphasizes the fact that the prevention of fires is as much the work of the chief and his men as is the actual fighting of the blaze after it has occurred through, as most often happens, some preventable cause that proper inspection would have removed.
It is sometimes hard to convince the fireman who lives on the experience he gained in the service twenty years ago that the most important step in fire department management is the prevention of fires: in other words, that it is just as important to stop fires before they occur, as it is to fight them after they have started. One of the principal tasks of the members of the fire department is to prevent fire wherever possible. This can best be done by daily inspection of the territory of which each member is in charge.
How Can Fires be Prevented?
One hears the question on all sides, “How are you going to prevent fires?” The answer to this is by careful inspection of all buildings by firemen who have been thoroughly trained in fire prevention, in the removal of the cause of the fire and in the proper storage of materials.
I am not sanguine enough to believe that we will ever be able to stop all fires, but with all our forces (shop and storehouse employes and firemen) pulling together, we can certainly prevent a lot of them. “But.” cries the layman, “if we have no fires then we will have no fire department, no jobs for the men who now take their lives in their hands every time the gong taps.”
Do you believe this statement? Assuredly not, for even though a piece of fire apparatus does not turn a wheel for a month, the time is certain to come when it will.
The Fire Department Performs a Double Service
If we knew when and where a fire was to break out our troubles would practically be over, but one can never tell. Fire picks neither time, place nor season. This being the case that it is just as important to prevent fires as it is to fight them, it is obvious to me that a fire department should have a twofold service, one element of which should he the inspection and corrective work, hacked by the full power of the commanding officer, while the other element should be to fight and subdue the fires that occur in spite of everything that we can do to prevent them.
If a fireman-inspector does this double work when he takes his place on the running hoard of a fire apparatus we get the peak efficiency of his inspections from his knowledge of the building on fire, for he knows the building and in any emergency he is in possession of knowledge he could never gain by answering alarms without inspection.
Duty of Men as Well as Chief to Know Building
Another thought comes to me. How comparatively few firemen really know the factory buildings in their districts as they should! By thoroughly learning the layout and defects of these buildings they can not only fight fire but also prevent losses that would take place where the men are ignorant of their buildings. It is not only the duty of the chief to know the buildings, but of each member also. And if the fireman will carefully inspect and study at all times the wiring, faulty construction, special and inherent hazards of each building, he becomes the scout of the fire department for he knows low to get to the roof, where all openings are, the fire stops, stairways, exits, elevators, fire walls and all interior arrangement of stocks, etc. On his knowledge may depend the safety of the fire-fighters with him and often the fate of the building.
Plant Chief an Important Ally of Inspector
An important ally and assistant to the fireman-inspector can be found in the various plant chiefs of the industrial establishments and factories. Most large concerns have some one man in charge of this work and the inspector of the fire department should make it a point to know him and interest him in the work of inspection. It will be found as a rule, these men are open to suggestions and are glad of the assistance of the members of the uniformed force. They will generally prove valuable allies in helping to reduce the fire loss and in rendering the work of the inspection force of the fire department more effective.
Instructions to Firemen-Inspeetors
I do not think I can do better here than to repeat the instructions I have prepared for my men when they perform the work of inspection. Possibly this may afford some hints to other chiefs in preparing similar lists:
The strongest ally fire protection has outside of rigid and continued inspection is education.
Every factory should once a month hold a fire prevention meeting and let every one tell what he or she knows to be wrong with some part of the plant.
The work as firemen-inspectors is to prevent fires wherever possible.
Inspection should be very thorough and should be looked upon as the highest duty to fire service.
Fire equipment should always be examined.
“How comparatively few firemen really know the factory buildings in their districts as they should! By thoroughly learning the layout and defects of these buildings they can not only fight fire but also prevent losses that would take place where the men are ignorant of their buildings. It is not only the duty of the chief to know the buildings but of each member also.”
You should make a report of your findings in writing at the end of your inspection.
Study and understand each building you inspect.
Do not give any orders to any one in any building you inspect but report all conditions to your own officers.
See that all rubbish, sweeping, refuse, contents of cans, baskets or bins are removed daily from buildings and see the waste bins, cans, etc., are used by employes.
See that all fire rules are obeyed, especially that of smoking and report violations of rules.
Test all fire doors, shutters, etc., to see that they are in good working order and not obstructed.
Report instantly wherever fire appliances arc found to be missing or out of order.
See that all fire hydrants are ready for use.
Learn where the electric wires come into a building and where the main switch on each line is.
Where water or steam comes in and where main valve is.
Fire Prevention is a big subject, study it daily. It will teach you to think and act and retain information which will be of use to you when most needed.
You know the value of the first few minutes when you arrive at a fire, and you can use them if you know your building, for you will have the fire out by the time you find some one who knows the building.
Know your work and success is yours, depend on the other fellow and you will have hard luck.
Don’t be a slacker but be a leader.
It is up to you to help reduce this great loss of life and property.
In talking to you about fire prevention, I will not attempt to add much new material to that already in existence, but shall hope to place the subject before you in a way to give the most practical view.
The fire waste in the United States today is approximately $290,000,000 a year.
When we say fire waste we have in mind a waste that does no one good and all an injury, for this is an item of no small importance in the present day high cost of living. In fortythree years wc have piled up a loss account of $7,097,770,754.
Now most fires start from the following causes:
Lack of cleanliness.
Rubbish heaped in cellars.
Accumulations in attics.
Ashes deposited in wooden boxes against wooden fences and other combustible surfaces.
Burning trash, etc. too near buildings.
A lighted cigar or cigarette stub thrown, or smoking in factories, shops, stables, garages, etc. Smoking in such places should be absolutely prohibited except in fire proof rooms especially provided for that use.
Wooden boxes should not be used as cuspidors or for holding waste matter of inflammable nature and whenever a fireman finds one so used he should destroy it.
Matches are made to set fire and they are on the job.
Defective electric wiring causes many fires.
Electric light bulbs should not be covered by cloth or paper shades or decorations.
Exposed gas jets cause curtains and draperies to catch fire when blown against flame.
Movable gas brackets should not be used.
Kerosene lamps should be kept very clean.
Candles and lighted matches should never be taken into closets, or where inflammable material or oils are.
Chimneys should be properly constructed.
Overheated stoves are a menace.
Clothing hung too close to stoves, etc., is a fire breeder.
Open fire places should be protected by wire spark screens.
All electric heating devices should show when current is on.
Fireworks and Christmas decorations need constant watching.
Individual responsibility for fires should become a law everywhere.
Fire prevention is as important as fire extinguishment and is the duty of every fire department.
We have covered much ground and in closing must summarize to get the full advantage of this lesson:
First: Learn your building.
Second : Remove the causes of fire.
Third : Watch all construction.
Fourth: Study our enormous fire loss.
Fifth: Make each inspection teach you a lesson.
It will be a slow and laborious task, do not weaken but keep at it.
New Fire Department at Dundee, N. Y.—A new volunteer fire department has been organized at Dundee, N. Y., and has elected Burt. E. Hunt president.