The Junior Fire Marshal Plan In Illinois
Results Achieved by Organization
It is an inspiring story that Mr. Gamber relates and The Fire Engineer congratulates him on the success that has been gained. We see no reason why the plan outlined here should not be put into effect in every community. It’s worth a trial at any rate.—Editor.
THE other day one of the boys of a Chicago high school complained to the principal about fire drills.
“They are not orderly or systematic,” he said. “The pupils jam in front of the exits instead of marching a safe distance away. In case of a real fire there would be trouble.”
The principal suggested that he submit a better plan.
The lad hunted up an engineer and got all the pointers he could on fire drills. He worked out an entirely new arrangement, regrouping rooms according to stairways, and submitted diagrams to the principal. The plan was tried out and approved, and is a great improvement.
This youth was one of the Junior Fire Marshals whom I have appointed in a number of high schools in Illinois and charged with fire prevention work in their respective schools. I tried the plan out as an experiment by appointing a Junior Fire Marshal in each of a score of Chicago high schools about the first of the year. It has been so successful in constructive fire prevention results that I am extending it to high schools throughout the state as rapidly as the school authorities can be interested. About 30 boys have been commissioned to date.
In most cases the boys have taken over direction of fire drills. Exits are examined regularly and, whenever a meeting is held in the school auditorium, the exits are especially examined. Fire extinguishers and fire protection equipment is inspected to see that everything is fit for use at any timeWaste paper, rubbish and similar hazards do not have a chance to exist under the eagle eyes of these lads.
The boys do not attempt to do all these things unassisted. They are the generals. Most of them have selected a corps of able assistants and placed them in charge of details. Some of them have developed a positive genius for organization.
For instance, at one school, when the fire gong rings, 20 picked lieutenants take positions at the various doors. If any pupils link arms, talk, carry books or wraps, or violate discipline in any way, tbe lieutenants take them before the Junior Fire Marshal. If necessary, he takes them before tbe principal.
Organized Emergency Squad
At this same school the Junior Fire Marshal has organized an Emergency Squad of eight members, who have pledged themselves to go at any time to any place and clean up dangerous conditions which it is possible and advisable for them to handle. All the boys in school are requested to report such conditions. Certain boys have been made responsible for inspecting fire extinguishers and other equipment.
At another school the Junior Fire Marshal has an educational campaign in full swing which is a wonder for bringing into play and coordinating the facilities of the school. He got the Oral Expression class to take charge of a fire prevention mass meeting, at which a series of carefully prepared talks on fire hazards were given The Girls’ Glee club and Hoys’ quartet assisted. The Dramatic club is now rehearsing the play, “Trial of Fire.” The school paper carries a fire prevention article each issue. Students in the drawing classes are making attractive posters, while the typewriting classes furnish all the copies of bulletins necessary to post about the school.
In some of the schools the Civics classes are used as the medium for making surveys of the school district, which are followed by efforts to have rubbish and other hazards cleaned up.
A well organized spring clean-up campaign has just been put on by all the schools, managed by the students.
The illustrations cited give an idea of the constructive character of the activities of the Junior Fire Marshals and of the possibilities of the plan. We place responsibility for the success of the work definitely on the boy. We give him official recognition in the shape of a commission, similar to those carried by our Deputies, which is highly prized and is an incentive to make good. Each month we send out a bulletin, summarizing the activities of the different boys and giving suggestions. The “live-wires’ are encouraged by the complimentary mention they receive and the school pride of their fellow students is stimulated, while the backward ones are enabled to profit by ideas worked out by the more successful ones and are naturally prodded to better efforts.
Method of Appointment
In order to secure the most likely boy in each school and also to secure the necessary cooperation and supervision of the school authorities, we require a recommendation from the principal before an appointment is made. Each boy receives a set of simple instructions. The principal receives a copy of every letter and bulletin we send the boy. The work is supervised and guided, but each boy understands that success depends upon his own efforts and initiative. He is encouraged to make recommendations and suggestions. These are carefully considered by the school authorities and, if practical, are adopted. This is similar to the plan used in the business world to elevate promising employees out of the rut and enable them to climb to executive positions-
The energy, enthusiasm and perseverance of the boys is tremendous, and their work correspondingly thorough. It took one boy some time to convince the principal that fire drills should be held, even though the building was supposedly fireproof, but he won out. Another boy found defective hose on some of the extinguishers and some of the fire axes missing. New hose and axes are being ordered and cases with glass fronts will be provided for all axes. At one school the installation of certain fire protection equipment is under advisement, on recommendation of the Junior Fire Marshal. One lad found the exit lights out in the assembly hall one night and exacted assurance from the engineer that it would not happen again. Another caused a nailed door to be opened and another secured approved metal receptacles in the chemical laboratory, after a number of near fires.
Results Exceed Expectations
The results are really greater than I was prepared to expect in so short a time and I believe the plan has more than justified itself. It develops initiative, resourcefulness and leadership in a way that prepares both for business and citizenship. It utilizes the facilities of school and classroom as a means of practical fire prevention education, without taking any time from school work and at the same time makes the school work more attractive. Finally, it gets results.
In Chicago we have had valuable cooperation from the Association of Commerce, which sponsors CivicIndustrial clubs in the high schools. The activities of these clubs are modeled after those of the Association and the work of the Junior Fire Marshals fits in well with them.
In one of the Chicago schools a girl has been appointed, as this a technical school for girls.
From my brief try-out of the plan, I believe that success is assured in any school where real cooperation can be secured from the authorities. This is necessary, first, to insure selection of the right boy, and second, to properly guide and encourage his work and thus sustain his interest.