Relation of Safety Movement to Fire Prevention

Relation of Safety Movement to Fire Prevention

Showing How the Two are Inter-dependent

Fire causes more than 10 per cent of all the accidental deaths in the United States. The great majority of these deaths—probably 90 per cent or more— do not occur in spectacular conflagrations like the Iroquois Theatre and Triangle Waist Company fires; they occur by one and twos in cities, towns, and villages all over the country, from playing with matches or from careless handling of gasoline or from any of the common causes so well known to firemen. In many of these fires the property loss is insignificant. These fatalities are not preventable by the building of fire escapes or the provision of fire extinguishers; often they are not preventable by anything the fire department can do after the fire has started; they are preventable only by preventing the fire itself. Therefore, it is clear that from the standpoint of saving human life entirely aside from the tremendous property waste caused by fire—every safety man is vitally interested in fire prevention, and fire prevention is one of the most important parts of the safety movement.

In the past, the efforts of fire departments and insurance organizations have been devoted mostly to the improvement of methods and equipment for putting out fires, and to improvement in the construction of buildings and their contents so they will not burn so readily. Comparatively little attention has been given to the prevention of fire by educating people to be more careful. The feeling seems to have been that one could install a fire wall or a sprinkler system or anything else made of metal or masonry, and could feel fairly sure that it would function properly when the time came—but that the human element could not be controlled. This is the same way that people use to feel about preventing other kinds of accidents, they would guard gears and build railings around dangerous places, but if a man was hurt through carelessness they would say that it was his own fault, and that nothing could be done about it.

Can Control Human Element

As a matter of fact, this idea has been found to be totally wrong. For the past dozen years factory after factory and railroad after railroad have found that the human element can be controlled—that men can be educated and trained to be more careful, and that accidents due to lack of carefulness can be prevented just as easily as accidents due to lack of safeguards. By the use of safeguards and education combined, many of our industries both large and small have been able to eliminate from 50 to 90 per cent of their accidents, and thus have saved a great deal of money for themselves as well as saving much loss of life and suffering to their workmen.

*Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the National Firemen’s Association.

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Relation of Safety Movement to Fire Prevention

(Continued from Page 160)

We are just beginning to find out that public accidents can be controlled, the same as industrial accidents. For example, the automobile kills over 10,000 men, women, and children per year. Each year, as the number of automobiles has increased, the number of fatal accidents from this cause has increased, both in the country as a whole and in all of the large cities. In fact, the increase has been alarmingly rapid. Yet in St. Louis and other cities the local branches of the National Safety Council have proved that this increase in automobile fatalities can be stopped and turned into a decrease, simply through an organized community effort to teach both the motorist and the pedestrian to be more careful.

The same applies to fire prevention. Great progress has been made on the engineering side of fire protection and fire prevention. Further progress undoubtedly will be made, but it will be slow. The great opportunity lies in prevention through education— education of the workmen in the factory, education of the child in the home, education of men and women everywhere, both at home and at work, including not only the rank and file workmen but also the foreman, the superintendent, and the manager, who are often just as careless as their workmen with respect to taking chances of fire.

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