Springfield inaugurates home fire inspections
CHIEF WILLARD G. COMPTON
DURING MAY 1960, the Springfield, Ohio, Fire Department began a home fire inspection program designed to cut residential fires by 40 or more per cent. The program stems from an analysis of fire reports for previous years which show that 59 per cent of the alarms answered by the fire department were from residences and were caused by electrical defects, rubbish, careless smoking or use of matches and faulty stoves or furnaces.
Before inaugurating the program as much information as possible was obtained from the National Board of Fire Underwriters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The services of Jay W. Stevens, director of fire prevention, IAFC, were secured for a “kick-off” luncheon.
Perhaps the most important aspect of such a campaign is the planning and publicity. A general meeting of chief officers was held to discuss the feasibility of such a program and the beneficial results which could be obtained. It was agreed that the need for home inspections existed and all chiefs enthusiastically promised their full support.
We then picked one double company and described the program in detail. We were emphatic regarding the type of inspections which would be required, the length of time, and the men involved. From the reaction of these men we decided that the program could be successfully accomplished and had no fear as to the acceptance and cooperation of all the fire force.
The fire prevention bureau, consisting of one platoon chief and two firemen, was then contacted and instructed to present some type of plan. Using reams of data previously collected, we started working out a program. Had it not been for the information we had collected from other cities, we probably could not have accomplished so much in so little time.
The project required some additional funds for printing, etc., and the writer contacted the city manager and informed him of our plan. The plan was approved, but no monies existed for the necessary expenses. Not to be deterred, the Springfield Insurance Agents Association was contacted for the necessary funds ($600.00). The Insurance Agents were happy to furnish the money for such a worthwhile project and encouraged us to proceed as planned.
Realizing that the project could not succeed without proper publicity, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the local newspapers were contacted. Their support was pledged without hestitation and in addition, many practical suggestions were offered and accepted. Proceeding on the theory of proper publicity as our best salesman, we planned for a kick-off luncheon at central engine house, April 27, approximately three weeks before the actual start of the inspection program. Invitations were issued to the press, radio, Boy and Girl Scout executives, PTA chairman, presidents of all public and parochial clubs, president of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the League of Women Voters, Ohio Edison, Ohio Fuel Gas Co., president of the Ministerial Society, Springfield’s mayor and city commissioners. This entailed approximately 48 people including the chiefs. Having no funds for this project, we called upon more friends and received cash, groceries and hams. The meal was prepared and served by the firemen, and 98 per cent of those invited attended.
The invitation stated that the meal would be typical fire station fare and the women attending were given the choice of being picked up and returned home in a fire car. We found this proposal appealed to the ladies.
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In an effort to save time and get our guests back on the job, the program was explained to them while they dined. The PTA was requested to see that a copy of a form letter given to them was placed in every school in the city; members of the Ministerial Society were requested to read the letter or print it in their church bulletins; the service clubs were asked to make arrangements for a three-minute speaker from the fire division; the Chamber of Commerce was requested to contact their members and also ask for pay envelope staffers in the various factories and stores, plus notices on the bulletin boards. The mayor and commission were asked to pass a resolution endorsing the home inspection program. The Boy and Girl Scouts were requested to take charge of the door knob hangers each Saturday in advance of the inspection in that district. The newspapers and radio stations were asked to carry the entire story, day by day, plus spot announcements. The entire dinner lasted for an hour and five minutes and we are happy to report that not one group turned us down or failed to do their assigned tasks.
Following the luncheon, we had another meeting with the chiefs and the fire prevention bureau, and discussed the proper procedure. The following material was used and a copy given to each fireman in a general meeting of each unit. Our drillmaster spent three hours going over the material with the men, and in addition, each officer held at least two sessions within the company.
Instructions to personnel
It should be understood that this inspection campaign is a fire department effort to reduce the number of home fires and attendant loss of life by pointing out the fire hazards which are common to every home, and to encourage the householder to eliminate these hazards.
- Inspections will be conducted on an in-service basis during the hours of 9:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be no inspections on rainy days or anytime the streets are wet. The period between 8:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. has been reserved for cleaning of apparatus as usual. We do not wish to get into an extended period of time when the apparatus will not be cleaned. Even if a company is reduced to two men, one man will inspect. We feel that this inspection program will be completed in three months or less. Mercantile and industrial inspections will be taken care of by the inspection bureau insofar as possible.
- Inspection uniforms should be clean and neat. Always approach the dwelling on the sidewalk. Make every effort to leave the front door open. The weather undoubtedly will be moderate and this should create no problem.
- Previous notice to occupants will be given by scouts leaving a card on the door knobs.
- Apparatus should be parked in the middle of the block being inspected. One man will stay with the truck and the radio will be left on at all times. As inspectors progress toward the middle of the block, apparatus should then be moved to the end of the block. Watch out for children when moving apparatus. When alarm is received over radio, inspectors should be alerted to return to apparatus by blowing the siren.
- The man left with the apparatus should keep a constant check to see if motors are overheating.
- There will be one inspector to a home. Always ask permission to make the inspection. Explain in a friendly manner that the sole purpose of making an inspection is to point out the hazards which may endanger their lives and property. Place particular stress on the fact that we are not looking for violations, merely attempting to reduce loss of life in the home by eliminating hazards. If permission to inspect is refused, thank them in a courteous manner and leave.
- Remember that this is a fire department effort and you will be in fire department uniform; therefore, you will be expected to conduct yourself as a gentleman.
- Compliment every householder regardless of what you find. You might compliment them on their fine children, their new paint job, beautiful television, furniture, etc., or even their nice garden.
- Be wary of long-winded conversations. Keep walking and dominate the conversation. Do not stray from inspection conversation. Discussing friends, relatives, the weather and taxes can defeat your whole purpose.
- Save all pennies and bad fuses for the fire prevention bureau. These will be an integral part of our publicity campaign.
- Only inspect portion of home they wish inspected.
- Inspection territories will remain as usual. Do not change at end of month. Keep territory each unit starts with until completed.
- Pump and ladder will work as one unit with one operator for both pieces with motor on extra truck not running. Keep both units together.
- Mark check-off sheet with neat X.
- Enter the street address on the form before knocking on the door or introducing yourself.
- Remember that the original
- (white) copy is to be left at the home and you are to write a form for every residential address on your route, even though there is no one at home. You will note that there is no provision for the name of the householder—names are not necessary or desirable to this campaign.
- If there is no one at home, check (X) “Not at Home,” sign your name and company number, and leave the original (white) copy at the door. Do not use the mail box.
- When hazards are found, do not order corrections made, but explain the hazard, its potential danger, and the proper method of correction. After this is done, check the hazard on your inspection form for that address using the space for “remarks” whenever necessary.
- When you notice something that is not listed on inspection form, write it in “Remarks”—such as hazardous roof, shavings around work area, etc.
- If you are refused admittance, be sure to thank the people courteously as you leave. Do not (X) the refusal
- on your inspection form in the presence of the home owner. They should not be made to feel that they are being listed as objectors to this program. Do not leave the white copy in this case.
- Inspect only basements, utility rooms, storage rooms, kitchens, garages and yards. Other rooms in the home may be inspected at the request of the householder but never at your suggestion. Rubbish or junk in the yard should be checked on your inspection form and be accompanied by an appropriate comment under “Remarks.”
- At the end of each day the captain or lieutenant will summarize your carbon (yellow) copies and forward the summarized report weekly to the fire prevention bureau.
- Don’t forget—write your name and company number plainly on every form you leave at a home.
Radio test instructions
While on dwelling inspection, you will have to rely on radio entirely for alarms received while out of quarters.
KQD will broadcast each day at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., so that you may know you are receiving wherever you might be.
Be sure you receive these stated broadcasts.
Do not acknowledge these broadcasts if they are received o.k.
If they do not come through at stated times, call for a test.
If you cannot get KQD 687 on your radio, assemble your men and go back to quarters immediately.
In case of alarm, only responding companies will acknowledge.
The first four weeks revealed the following: 6,715 inspections, 555 refusals, 92 gas leaks, 4,055 not at home or refused to answer the door. Several hundred people who were not at home when the fire department called, have since telephoned the inspection bureau and requested inspection at a particular time or date. These “specials” are being taken care of by the fire prevention bureau.
The newspapers cooperated 100 per cent and practically all articles and news items appeared as front-page material. In addition to the numerous radio broadcasts from the two local stations, the TV stations of Dayton and Columbus carried movies on various phases of the campaign.
As for the results—it is too soon to tell, but our home fires did drop from 31 in April to 19 in May, which was the first half month. As for observation of the men making the inspections, we are amazed at the enthusiasm. We originally felt that some of the men would have a tendency to “drag their feet” so to speak, but this is not the case. They seem to enjoy the inspections and look forward to going out each day.
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HOME FIRE INSPECTIONS
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The entire program has created a great deal of favorable comment among the citizens and we are receiving letters and telephone calls daily, complimenting the men on their fine work. In addition to the excellent results we feel we are obtaining, there is no question as to the public relations value of a program of this type. This is the finest thing that has happened in the Springfield Fire Division since the author entered 31 years ago.