The Burning of Our Schools
An account published in this week’s issue of the burning of the Portland, Ore., high school again brings to mind the enormous destruction of school property in this country through fire. It has been estimated by statisticians that there is an average of one fire per day throughout the year in schools in this country. Whether or not this is an exaggeration the fact remains that the destruction by fire of school buildings is entirely too frequent and is in a great many cases the result of either carelessness or ignorance on the part of some one.
At this time of the year fires in schools are especially frequent from the fact that the furnaces are lit for the first time often by janitors who take little trouble to first see that the heating apparatus of the school is in efficient and safe condition. Defective or improperly cleaned flues, smoke pipes rusted or in otherwise dangerous condition, the furnaces themselves defective or improperly taken care of and many other causes can be assigned for these fires. However, in tracing them to their origin the human element can generally be found to be at fault.
While fortunately in many instances these fires have occurred in other than schools hours and when the buildings were vacant or nearly so, in some cases, notably in the Covington, Ga., fire, described in this week’s issue, and that at Colby College in Waterville, Me., lives have been lost.
Of course the first matter to be attended to is to see that the heating apparatus before it is lighted for the cold season is in perfect condition and safe to use. If this had been done, many of these fires would not have occurred and they only serve to illustrate the necessity for attending to this important matter. But aside from precautions of this kind it is very essential that every means be adopted for taking care of fires when they do occur and in preventing panic among the scholars in case the fire happens during school hours. Fire drills should be carefully and frequently carried out so that the teachers and scholars know exactly what to do in case of an alarm and are taught to do this coolly and without confusion. Means should be provided for taking care of small fires in the buildings; extinguishers should be installed and scholars instructed in their manipulations; hose standards should be placed in positions on all floors and all other means of quickly handling a fire should be provided. But even more important is the means for summoning the city fire department. There should be placed in an easily accessible position a fire alarm box in every school building, and the scholars should he instructed in the proper method of sending an alarm and taught that the first act in discovering a fire should he to pull the box and summon the fire department. After that the handling of the fire and attempts at its extinguishment until the arrival of the department should follow. All of these matters if properly attended to would reduce very largely the number of unnecessary school fires, which seem to be on the increase.