The Fires That Did Not Occur

The Fires That Did Not Occur

Under the above title, the National Board of Fire Underwriters has issued bulletin No. 2, in which they say in part: You have read of ammunition plants being destroyed, grain elevators consumed and stock yards crippled; here is a glimpse at the much greater story of the fires that did not occur. It is not too much to say that a movement which began on March 21, 1917, has organized itself into the most extensive fire prevention campaign that the world has ever seen. Thousands of people have participated in some one or other of its various phases; millions have come under its influence, but very few are able to appreciate its scope. The National Board of Fire Underwriters realized that a public duty devolved upon it. The duty became plain. Information concerning manufacturing and storage plants was already in the hands of the fire insurance interests. The underwriters had spent many years and millions of dollars in collating it, as a requisite to their business. Their records covered practically every building in the United States; there could be no question as to the duty of placing this priceless material at the disposal of the government. But this was only a part of their duty. It was evident that the situation also required a campaign of widespread activity. The urgency of the crisis indicated that there was no time to lose. A resolution was drafted, setting forth in its preamble a review of the conditions and ending with these words: “Resolved, That in the emergency now confronting the nation, the National Board of Fire Underwriters places its services, resources and facilities of this nature at the disposal of the United States Government, and offers to act as a medium through which may be centralized the knowledge, training and services of the engineering forces in the employ of the national board, and of all other fire F surance organizations.” This was signed by R. M. Bissell and W. E. Mallalieu, as president and general manager, and copies were sent to all members of the executive committee. The acquiescence was prompt and unanimous. Telegrams were sent at once by the national board to the various insurance bureaus, and the names of hundreds of factories actually making munitions have been transmitted to Washington. This was tangible definite service, but it was merely a beginning. The next d velopment was of an engineering nature It concerned the plans for the army camps. Today a visitor to any one of these great camps will see an interesting sight. After he has gained his first impressions of high pressure yet orderly activity, he will see long vistas of unpainted two-story woodi barracks in street after street. How burnable they look! How easy it would seem for a fire once under headway, with a strong wind, to develop into an irresistible conflagration. Then he may, perhaps, notice that these barracks are not roofed with shingles, but are covered with fire resistive roofing, upon which sparks or brands would harmlessly die out. If he enter any building he will see that its heating apparatus is of a safe and standardized form. He will notice that the pipes are well protected where they pass through the floors or roofs so that their overheating cannot set fire to the building. He will see that the electrical installation is of an approved character, and is carefully inspected. He will find fire buckets and hand extinguishers within easy reach at every point. He will also be told that there are carefully considered safety rules to guard against carelessness. In this way the past few months have witnessed a great, silent process of transformation, contributing enormously toward safety and general efficiency. At every point there has been a steady policy of close relations with the state councils of defense and the conservation associations in the various states, whose effective co-operation has been of the greatest assistance. Truh, this part of the work has been the story of many thousands of “fires that did not occur.” It cannot be doubted that the present production of supplies is materially larger than would now be the case had it not been for this campaign.

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