Instructions to Volunteers

Instructions to Volunteers

In our correspondence column is published a communication from Chief Engineer George W. Booth, of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, in which he comments on the letter of Ex-Chief Benjamin L. Wallace, published in our issue of April 23, suggesting a plan of instruction to the volunteer fire departments of small towns. As Mr. Booth rightly says the problem of the small volunteer department is a somewhat difficult one. There is, in most cases, no one in the town itself with sufficient experience in fighting fires to properly drill the members of the department. The chief, in the very nature of the case, cannot have had the training necessary to properly instruct the men in the various duties that they will be called upon to perform in connection with the work they are engaged in, as he himself will not have had any more opportunity to meet such emergencies than they have. To properly drill and instruct the men of these departments a member of a paid department who has had some experience in the instruction of his own members, preferably an officer, should be detailed for this work. But at once there looms the difficulty of the expenses involved in such instruction. Not often can a small town spare the funds from its budget necessary to accomplish this, and certainly the volunteers, who are public spirited enough to give their services in the protection of the town from fire should not be asked to also dip into their pockets for this additional sacrifice. The plan mentioned by Mr. Booth as having been adopted in the State of North Carolina, of detailing a former chief of a fire department, to look after this work offers one very good solution to the difficulty. Chief Brockwell has, no doubt, done much to add to the efficiency of the volunteers of the State of North Carolina, and other States that have not already done so. should authorize their fire insurance commissioners or fire marshals to inaugurate some such plan of instruction in the small town departments, making the necessary appropriation to carry on the work. The State’s money so spent would be well invested.

Instructions to Volunteers

0

Instructions to Volunteers

The letter of Charles Cobeck excoriating the volunteer firemen, which appeared in our issue of March 19, has brought out several interesting communications from our readers thus far, and in this issue we publish a letter which contains a suggestion which seems to us to be a very good one. It comes from Ex-Chief Benjamin L. Wallace, of the Dobbs Ferry, N. Y., fire department, and the gist of it is that, rather than do away with the volunteer, as Mr. Cobeck suggests, that he be properly instructed in the science of fire fighting by men who have had practical experience in the larger city departments. The plan, as put forward by Chief Wallace, is that the instruction, which shall be compulsory, take place at least twice a year, and that a fine be imposed for nonattendance at the drill in which the lessons are to be given. Mr. Wallace further suggests that this work could very properly be undertaken by the National Board of Fire Underwriters—to be financed by them and conducted under their supervision. It certainly seems on the face of it that this idea contains the possible solution of the volunteer problem. There is no doubt that there is a variance in the efficiency of the volunteer service of the small towns of the country. This of necessity must be so, as conditions vary in these departments, as do also the type of chiefs in command. And, in the last analysis, very much of the efficiency of a department depends on the personality and ability of its chief, be it paid or volunteer. If, however, the men of these smaller departments can be given the advantage of the training and experience of a professional fireman, who knows his work from A to Z, and who has some ability to impart this knowledge to his pupils in the form of instruction, much of the handicaps of environment, lack of experience, or a badly fitted commanding officer, would be overcome. As a general rule, if a man has enough enthusiasm to enlist in the volunteer fire company of his town, he will also possess the ambition, provided it is properly directed, to wish to make his company as perfect and as fine an organization as it is possible to do. So that, with this feeling as a nucleus, it should not he a very difficult matter to whip the willing material into efficiency, provided the instructor has the ability to do this. We think that, if anything, Chief Wallace errs in the suggested frequency of drills—there should he, at the very least, four during the year, to insure the improvement of a volunteer company.

The expense of such a plan of instruction should not be very great, as two or three men could easily cover a State in a year, holding as many drills and instructions as would be deemed necessary, and the increase in efficiency of the fire departments and the consequent reduction of the fire losses, would much more than compensate for the outlay.

The suggestion is respectfully referred to the National Board of Fire Underwriters.