Prevention Education Needs Expanding
The Editor’s Opinion Page
“Fire Safety and Control” is the blanket heading in the Grading Schedule that covers all facets of what is commonly called fire prevention. The opening paragraph under this heading states that “a reasonable degree of safety to life and protection of property from fire can be provided by state and municipal control of hazards. Control can best be accomplished by the adoption and enforcement of appropriate codes and standards for the manufacture, storage and use of hazardous materials, and for building construction.”
In general, this “reasonable degree of safety” has been provided in places given over to the manufacture of flammable gases and liquids, and special hazards that involve dangerous plastics, fireworks and similar products. Reasonable safety has also been provided for factories—places where people work at manufacturing any product.
Unfortunately the average citizen seems to be confident that the state legislature or city hall or the local fire department or someone has provided the reasonable degree of safety in all accupancies. As a consequence of this belief he will blithely place himself in extreme peril. And when something goes wrong he feels shocked, betrayed and angered.
We are thinking here of places of public assembly which include nightclubs, discotheques and dance halls among others, and the omnipresent light-hazard office building which have contributed to the holocausts of recent years.
The citizen who has barely escaped from a nightclub fire, or worse, one who has to identify a relative at a morgue, has every right to feel betrayed. In almost all instances the powers that be have let him down—either by lack of appropriate laws or a lack of regular inspection or enforcement.
After all, a citizen out for a night on the town, or at work in an office, should not have to think about obstructions to exits, inadequate or defective fire alarm or fire extinguishing equipment, or conditions in a building which create a severe life hazard potential. He is out of his natural element—home and work—and there is usually nothing in his background that would enable him to evaluate his surroundings.
We say “usually” because some people do have a background (limited) in fire prevention and fire prevention education which they have acquired on their own or from the local fire department. Unhappily, most of their education has centered around how not to start a fire, how to extinguish a fire, and how to exit from one’s blazing home. All very good.
But if fire prevention educators would expand their efforts to include “how to get out of a blazing building or nightclub,” or “why one should not go into some of them in the first place,” the fire toll in deaths and injuries would drop.
Such expanded efforts could also have the effect of making citizens more aware of and demanding of the need for the “adoption and enforcement of appropriate codes and standards.”