Slides Make Believers of Fire Code Violators

Slides Make Believers of Fire Code Violators


Bin obstructing hose cabinet is photographed by Fire Inspector Sam Burnett.

A program using 35mm slides to demonstrate fire hazards and fire protection to employees of large commercial and institutional facilities has received excellent acceptance in Albuquerque, N.M.

Developed and presented by members of the public education and information section of the Albuquerque Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau, the presentation focuses attention on fire hazards and protection devices found in the buildings of the particular firm or institution involved.

The program was devised by Fire Inspectors Sam Burnett and A1 Armenta in response to a need to show occupants of large facilities that fire safety problems did exist within their own buildings.

“We needed some way to show people working in a particular buiding such hazards as fire doors blocked open or poorly marked exits, but couldn’t take them to see these hazards just due to the large number of people involved,” said Burnett. “Then we hit upon the idea of taking the hazards to the people through the use of 35mm slides.”

Facility inspected first

Equipped with a 35mm camera with interchangeable normal, wide-angle and closeup lenses, Burnett and Fire Inspector Don Hershberger began a typical program for an institutional organization with a survey of the facility. They were accompanied by the chief maintenance engineer of the organization.

Major fire protection equipment was first located and examined. Sprinkler valves, Siamese connections, standpipes and equipment rooms where these facilities are located were checked and photographed. Hydrant locations near the building and on the grounds were also noted and fire lanes were checked.

Wedged door gets attention of Inspector Don Hershberger as photo is taken.

Within the building, sprinkler systems, portable fire extinguishers, hose cabinets, and other protection devices were examined and photographed, particularly those found to be improperly maintained or charged. Views of fire protection features, such as fire doors, were also included along with close-ups showing the manufacturer’s tag indicating the fire door rating. Photos were then taken of fire detection and alarm equipment, such as smoke and heat detectors and each of the several types of manual pull stations in the building. These slides are used to familiarize the employees with such protection features and how they fit in the overall fire protection for the building.

Hazards sought

As the inspection progressed, particular hazards were searched for. Fire doors blocked open, obstructed passageways, poorly marked or lighted exits, and poor housekeeping procedures were among the more common problems, and each was photographed and its location noted for use in the slide presentation to follow.

Some of the problems found included a marked exit from a laboratory, which led not to the outside but to another room with no exit sign, and a sprinkler valve in a closet used for custodial storage with the valve itself obscured by a custodian’s coat. In another instance, a portable fire extinguisher in kitchen area had no sign to indicate its location and was being used by an employee for hanging his coat.

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“Of course, if a fire occurred while the coat owner was here, he would know the extinguisher was there,” commented Burnett, “but what if he was out of the room and someone unfamiliar with it walked by and saw a fire?”

Not a full inspection

Once a collection of typical hazards and protection features is located and photographed, the survey portion of the program is complete. During the survey, no attempt is made to completely inspect the facility for every problem or violation as this is the responsibility of fire inspectors who specialize in particular types of installations throughout the city. If serious hazards are encountered during the inspection, they are brought to the immediate attention of the responsible personnel of the facility and citations may be issued. For the typical violations found, however, referral is made to the fire inspector responsible for the building, who makes a followup.

After the slides are processed, they are arranged into a program for presentation to the building employees at a time and location convenient to management, preferably as soon after the inspection as possible. Because of job duties, several presentations must normally be made, but this is advantageous because it reduces audience size and allows for better communication between the fire inspector and the group.

The presentation begins with a film relating to the particular type facility involved. For example, if the program is being given at a hospital, a film on hospital fire safety and emergency procedures is shown. Likewise, if a highrise office building is the location, a film on high-rise safety is presented.

Comments from audience

The film is followed by a slide program organized from the views photographed previously in the facility. By discussion with the employees attending as to their particular jobs, the fire inspector obtains their comments as slide appear showing their own work areas. As the inspector proceeds to show hazards found within their own building, comments of recognition invariably come from the audience. The fire inspector explains the dangers of each of the hazards shown and emphasizes the need for each employee to see that every effort is made to correct such problems.

The purpose of each of the fire detection and protection devices in the building is then explained, again using audience participation to point out the various types of equipment peculiar to different areas of the facility, such as different types of fire alarm pull stations or fire extinguishers.

Once the slide presentation is complete, a question-and-answer session is held and pamphlets relating to fire safety, both in their place of work and at home, are distributed. Finally, employees are given an opportunity to step outside the building and operate the various types of fire extinguishers found inside in order to become familiar with them should the need arise.

Violation spotted by fire inspectors stems from use of OS&Y valve as coat rack.

Program is voluntary

The program is totally voluntary on the part of the organization involved and is separate from the mandatory fire prevention inspections conducted by other members of the Fire Prevention Bureau for the purpose of locating and correcting every possible hazard. Its whole purpose is to educate building occupants to the need for fire safety measures and to recognize and correct fire hazards in their daily routine.

Initial contact is made with a firm or institution when the management of the facility is approached by fire inspectors of the Public Education and Information Section who explain the program’s operation and goals. An offer is then made to develop a presentation for the organization’s employees with all portions of the program to be at management’s convenience. Perhaps because of this cooperative approach, no organization has failed to request a presentation as of this writing.

Acceptance of the program is probably best demonstrated, related Burnett, by the large firm which purchased and donated to the Albuquerque Fire Department a film on high-rise fire safety after a presentation at its facility.

Seeing is believing part of slide program is presented by Inspector Al Armenter.

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