Field Force Organized to Impart Information to Public—Men Selected from Uniformed Ranks for Work Results Pleasing

WITH no background upon which to base this new work, Chief Ralph J. Scott of the Los Angeles, Cal., fire department had to do some experimenting before he was able to bring his plan of imparting uniform information to the public, to its final conclusion.

In order to bring this about the Battalion Chiefs were notified to select two of their best men, taking into consideration their personal appearance, tact, force, and other qualities that go to make up a good salesman. These men were relieved from regular duty and assigned to headquarters for instruction. Approximately a month was given to schooling them in the essential points we wanted to impart to the public.

At first they were confined to a prepared talk embodying these paramount features: Introductory remarks; their mission; location of nearest fire alarm box; how marked for easy identification; could time be spared for instruction on how to call the department in case of fire; at first signs of fire immediately proceed to fire alarm box; break glass in door by using knife, key ring, vanity case, stick, rock or anything at hand; pull hook or projection down once and then release; wait at box to direct firemen to location of fire; proper manner of reporting fire by ‘phone; use of dial and manual ’phone; how to transmit call in the dark to report fire, or prowler about premises to police department: necessity of being calm; complete information as to house number, name of street, whether north, south, east or west, or whether avenue, place, drive or street; nature of fire as to whether grass, automobile or dwelling; not to leave ’phone ’till fire department has all information desired: most fires preventable ; leave pamphlet containing common causes of fire such as children playing with matches, carelessness with matches in smoking or in disposing of lighted cigars or cigarettes, burning trash or rubbish near a house or fence instead of in an approved incinerator, leaving electric irons turned on while away, bridging fuses with coins or wires, amateur electric wiring, gas stoves or heaters connected with rubber hose, rubbish allowed about premises, fireplaces or open flame heaters not protected with screens; cite many cases of women or children burned severely, sometimes fatally by clothes igniting from flames of this kind; advise against use of gasoline or benzine for cleaning clothes and substitute non-inflammable cleanser; Fire Prevention Bureau attends to inspection of all buildings and enforcement of fire ordinances ; emphasize ’phone number of fire department and write location of nearest fire alarm box on pamphlet.

After these salient points were understood to the extent that each man could carry his story through in logical sequence, they were told to forget their “speech” and allow their personality to enter into the delivery of their message, only remembering to confine themselves to their one mission. They were also admonished against attempting to interpret fire ordinances or to point out fire hazards, as this was the duty of the Fire Prevention Bureau.

Although Chief Scott felt the urgent necessity for such a campaign, he did not know what the reaction of the public would be. In order to determine this he decided to send the full detail into one section of the city to test out his program. This he did, and the results brought back at the close of each day by these men exceeded his expectations. In almost every instance the citizens were greedy for the information our men were imparting and wondered at their ignorance. With such reports coming Chief Scott ordered the campaign to spread out over the entire city.

The following is a summary of the organization plan which was put into operation by Chief Scott:

At present the fire department has two tasks before it, namely,

1—The education of the Public in regards to reporting fires.

2—A contact with the voters that will result in benefit to our department when matters of interest to us appear for their approval.

The second consideration should not be treated as a main issue, hut it should follow in the wake of our educational activities as naturally as day follows night.

In the city-wide program the work took on several new phases of which the following is a summary:

1—Publicity by means of an established news service and pictures to the daily and suburban newspapers, (at regular intervals) radio broadcast stations, etc.

2—Men now concentrated in one section to be assigned to Districts in which they live, to speak before Improvement Associations, P. T. A. groups. Boy Scouts. Camp Fire Girls, schools, various clubs, lodges, etc., and to form contact with newspaper men and other influential citizens.

3—Every fire station to 1Hsupplied with a mode! fire alarm box and have at least two men on each shift qualified to impart educational message to public. Publicity campaign to urge that citizens visit the nearest fire station and bring their families for this instruction. At all times when these men can lxspared they are to go from door to door in their particular hydrant district and impart this educational message.

The work is based upon the following organization plan which has the chief engineer at the head. A captain who has charge of sixtv-five separate fire stations is directly responsible to the head and he has supervision of ten districts.

In the next article, there will be a detailed summary of this plan in operation which has enabled Los Angeles to reach thousands of the people every month. Undreamed of cooperation has developed.

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