Fire Marshals and Staffs of 32 State Hospitals Participate in Annual Short Course

ON a recent summer morning on the grounds of the Wernersville State Hospital, Wernersville, Pa., a group of men rushed into a blazing building and within fifteen seconds extinguished the fire, and then emerged through clouds of heavy smoke. Although the building was purposely set on fire, it was not a case of arson; neither was it a false alarm.

Fire victim brought down to safety by members of Pennsylvania State Department of Welfare Rescue and Fire School at drill held at Wernersville State Hospital, Wernersville, Pennsylvania.

This was only one of a series of evolutions staged by the Rescue and Fire School of the Pennsylvania State Department of Welfare. This school is one of the most unique of its kind in the United States. It is composed of Fire Marshals and the staffs of 32 Stateowned hospitals. Once each year they hold a three-day fire prevention drill at one of the institutions. Last year, the school was held at the Mayview State Hospital, near Pittsburgh. In June of this year, the affair was held at Wernersville.

Alan D. Reynolds, Secretary of Welfare. summed it up this way: “Fire prevention in our State-owned hospitals requires eternal vigilance on the part of our Fire Marshals. The Rescue and Fire School is a most important factor in contributing toward the safeguarding of lives of over 50,000 patients in our institutions.”

The Rescue and Fire School embraces all activities connected with the saving of human lives and the prevention of fire. Under the direct supervision of R. Bruce Dunlap, Director of the Bureau of Institutional Management, Department of Welfare, nothing has been overlooked in the training of the Fire Marshals and their staffs to prevent fire.

On a selected part of the grounds at Wernersville, the fire-fighting school resembled a set in Hollywood. Flames and smoke poured from buildings. Men hurried about garbed in gas masks and turnouts. Victims, securely bound with rope, were lowered from second-story windows down ladders. Nearby, stood the big rescue and fire-fighting truck given recently to the Wernersville Hospital by the State Council of Civil Defense. Beneath a spreading tree, a group of men, each with a rope in his hand, were being instructed in the art of tying the eight basic knots used in State Civil Defense Courses. Also they learned how to use a “Rescue Coil,” a rope coiled so a man can carry it on his back.

Members of the class volunteered to act as victims. This provided thorough training for the rescuers. Every false move on the part of the rescuers was noted and the operation, if necessary, was repeated until perfection was obtained.

Classes under instructors went through their paces extinguishing fire and entering flame-filled steel paneled rooms in buildings specially constructed for the drills to rescue “victims.”

These classes were composed of seven groups of approximately eight men each who rotated in attending the various courses of instruction. These included knot-tying, use of rope and ladder, rescue technique, use of gas masks, use of fire extinguishers, extinguishing structural fires, and fire inspection practices. Each instructor was assisted by from one to four members of the Wernersville State Hospital fire brigade, of which Robert A. Price is Fire Marshal.

Inspection practices form an important part of the training school. Under the direction of William Gallagher, Fire Marshal at the Philadelphia State Hospital, a group of men toured barns, maintenance buildings, and wards looking tor fire hazards.

Fire marshals of 32 state-owned hospitals of the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare attend class of the Rescue and Fire School at the Wernersville State Hospital, Wernersville, Pa. The Rescue truck of the State Civil Defense is in the background.

Members of the school who wore gas masks in a smoke-filled room to learn their uses, were instructed by Nelson Wonsetler, Fire Marshal at Norristown State Hospital, in the maintenance and use of all-purpose gas masks and self-contained breathing apparatus.

Captain Leo Goodman of the Mayview State Hospital, demonstrated various types of fire extinguishers and how to use them, including such varieties as soda-acid, water, foam, carbon tetrachloride and dry chemical. Each was used to combat the classification of fire for which it was designed. A special demonstration was made on a magnesium fire, requiring a special type of chemical powder to extinguish it.

The final course at the school consisted of a lecture on the coordination of various departments in a hospital to get employes fire conscious and to cooperate with the fire personnel.

Dr. Frederick H. Kramer, Superintendent of the Wernersville State Hospital, said: “Although the Rescue and Fire School represents the personnel of 32 institutions, we at Wernersville invite the school to come here every year and hold its drills.”

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