Teaching Fire Safety in the Schools

Teaching Fire Safety in the Schools

Excellent work accomplished by Chief Claude W. Coming in the schools of Seattle, Wash., through the enlistment of the interest of both teachers and scholars in the subject of Fire Prevention

Chief Claude W. Corning*

THERE is perhaps no part of the education of the present day child that is more important to his well being both present and future than a thorough training in matters pertaining to safety. Carelessness, which is the cause of a large majority of all accidents that result in injury to either persons or property, can best be eliminated by carefully training the mind to recognize the many attendant dangers of every day life. Such training if started in early youth and carried on through the school years will result in a generation of safety minded citizens who will by their own every day application of that training, greatly reduce the losses now suffered both to life and property.

It is the duty of every public official charged with the safeguarding of the public not only to prosecute the violators of laws and ordinances but to carry on a vigorous campaign of educational work which will eliminate the causes of these violations. Believing that such educational work will result in the elimination of those careless acts which cause fires and many times deaths, the Seattle Fire Department has started a safety campaign in the schools which promises results far greater than could ever be anticipated.

Chief Moves for Standard School Fire Drills

Shortly after Chief Claude W. Corning had assumed command of the Fire Department, the duties of the Fire Marshal were transferred to his supervision, and a Captain was placed in active charge of that division. Because of his many years of close association with the public schools, both as a father and as a fire officer, Chief Corning knew that the school is the proper place to train the young mind, not only in the three “R’s,” but also in the rudiments of fire prevention and safety. That a more intimate knowledge of conditions in all schools might be had the Chief ordered a thorough inspection be made and a fire drill held in every high school and elementary school in the city.

Accurate records were ordered to be kept of the manner of transmitting fire drill signals, time to empty building, discipline, search of building, assistance to cripples, general interest of principal and teachers, etc., and where hazards or unsafe conditions were noted correction notices were forwarded to the School Board. A careful study of the inspectors’ reports on fire drills revealed a complete lack of uniform regulation on the conduct of these drills, and in consequence a proposed standard fire drill was drafted for high schools, and a similar one for grade schools. These were submitted to the School Board and Superintendent of Schools, together with a detailed report of the inspection and drill at each school. As a result of this action the proposed drill was offered to a special committee of school principals and upon their recommendations the School Board adopted the drill as standard, and ordered it printed in the School Manual.

A recent recheck on school drills reveals that both students and teachers have taken a lively interest in the standard fire drill regulations, the result being a greatly increased discipline during the drill and a corresponding lessening of the time necessary for pupils to leave a given school building. With the adoption of the long continuous ringing of bells as a standard fire signal, instead oi the several intermittent long and short rings formerly used, a child may now pass through grade. high schools and universities and out into vagaries of the business world where still he will find the continuous ringing of bells to be a fire danger signal.

Principal Annie L. Gifford and the Safety and Fire Drill Officers of Longfellow School, Seattle.Drill Formation at One of the Fire Exits. Marching formation is maintained at all times. Exit drill time approximately two minutes. This is one of the old type three-story frame buildings, with open stairwells and undivided attic. It has 650 students. Miss Gifford opened this school in 1903 and has always been a leader in fire drill work.

*Chief Corning was born in Terry, Mont., January 3, 1890. He came to Seattle with his parents when about three weeks old. Has lived there continuously since then. He graduated from Grade and High Schools and entered Seattle Fire Department, April 2, 1913, when the two platoon system went into effect. He successfully passed Civil Service Examination for Lieutenant and on May 27, 1919. was appointed Lieutenant and assigned to Truck Co. No. 5. As soon as eligible he took Civil Service examination for Captain and was appointed Captain of Truck Co. No. 7 at Headquarters Station on July 23, 1922. From September 12. 1921. to the time he was appointed Captain, he was detailed as Assistant Drill Master. Again taking Civil Service promotional examination he passed No. 1 on the list, was appointed Battalion Chief on January 1. 1929, and was assigned to Battalion No. 5. On June 10, 1932, Chief Corning was appointed to the command of the Fire Department. Chief Corning is a member of the Washington State Association of Fire Chiefs and a member of the Washington State Firemen’s Association. He is married and has two children in the public schools of Seattle.

Safety Units Formed in Schools

During the past year a more advanced work has been carried on in the nine high schools, where safety units have been organized. This movement was started at the Roosevelt High School, where about 2,500 students attend. When the plan was suggested to V. K. Froula. the Principal, he immediately recognized its merit, and gave every assistance in its formation. The object was to train groups in each school who would take an active interest in all matters of Fire Prevention and Safety. Study material was furnished by the Fire Department and on many occasions our instructors took active charge of the classes in the school rooms. As a result of this work there are now over 300 high school students who are qualified speakers on safety subjects and who are available to the Department on request for any occasion, receiving full school credit for such work.

During the training of these students special arrangements were made with the seven local radio stations whereby they donated daily time to the students that they might gain actual speaking experience. Other speaking engagements were also arranged before various organizations. Twenty-four short plays or dramatizations of 15 minutes each were also prepared and presented over the radio. The work of these safety units is gradually spreading to larger fields and it is hoped will become so valuable that it will gain a permanent place in the curriculum of all of the schools.

Coroner’s Inquests Held in High Schools

A further means of safety education was arranged with the cooperation of the County Coroner by holding two coroners inquests, on deaths caused by accidents, in the auditorium of high schools with all students in attendence. After the jury had retired the students were allowed to ask questions and pass comments. From the results obtained there is no doubt but that this is a most effective means of bringing about a better understanding of life’s responsibilities by the younger generation.

Campaign for Safe and Sane Hallowe’en

To further emphasize the value of these safety units it was decided to inaugurate a campaign this year for a safe and sane Halloween. The Superintendent of Schools had student representatives of all high schools and all grade schools meet with officials of the School, Fire and Police Department, and a plan was outlined. Speakers from the high schools were sent to the grade schools to give talks on the subject and each school organized a special group to patrol the districts on Halloween evening. A careful check was kept and another meeting held after Halloween at which each school gave a verbal report, to be followed by a written report of just what was done by their schools to create interest in the plan and just what damage was done.

The results of this campaign were so far heyond am expectations that this plan was at once adopted as an annual measure. Whole districts of the city which have formerly been the most troublesome to the Police and hire Departments were so well supervised that not a false alarm or police call was registered for them. Damage to property was almost nil, where school buildings alone usually have suffered several thousand dollars damage. Only ten false alarms were registered in the whole city, and several of these were manifestly sent in by grown up people in the early hours of the morning.

Teachers and Students receiving Instruction in the Proper Handling and Operation of Fire Extinguishers

To anyone at all interested in the safety field it can be readily seen that the close cooperation of the school and city officials and the enlisting of the school children themselves in the furtherance of safety measures will produce not only immediate but lasting results, which will reflect great credit to all concerned. The Seattle Fire Department is proud of its accomplishments along these lines and believes that plans now being formed will in years to come pay a large dividend in the reduction of losses, both to life and property. The careful training of our youth along such lines can only have one result—a better fitted and more capable citizen to take up and carry on the responsibilities and duties of our civic government.


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