Training Volunteer Firemen
Members of the Department Should Be Proficient in Hose and Ladder Work and in First Aid Training—Methods to Follow
THERE has never been a time in history of our nation when the demand for trained men has been so great as it is today. The fire service is by no means an exception.
We are living in an age when the haphazzard, slip-shod way of doing things can no longer be given any consideration, let alone be approved.
Just a word in regard to the fire waste of our nation to show the importance of having trained men to battle the worst enemy on the American continent—Fire.
A total of 10,000 lives, 30,000 persons injured and the loss of over $500,000,000 annually, a per capita loss of $4.07 for each man, woman and child in the United States, is in my opinion sufficient reason for immediate action in some constructive program to eliminate this condition or at least remedy it so far as possible.
Now let us see what can be done in our line of work. There is not a more noble and braver body of men in the universe than those in the Fire Service.
But it is necessary to educate our firemen.
You are always confronted with the statement “You cannot have a Fire School and train men in a Volunteer Fire Department.” This is absolutely untrue. Operating a Fire School in a city of more than 80,000 population with a Volunteer Department is some task, but it can and has been done.
There are those who bitterly assailed the movement for a training School in our department in Harrisburg, but there is another group of progressive men who are firemen because they love the work and are interested in doing things for their fellow-man and the community in which they live. It is this group that makes the sacrifice to obtain the fire fighting knowledge, and this class will support a school of instruction wherever it may be started. Such men are a great asset to the fire service of the community from which they come.
While our school is not as complete as the schools of larger cities, we are striving to give our men the best we can under the circumstances and our efforts have been rewarded by seeing 51 men graduate from our course. Any persons who have been privileged to witness the demonstrations given by either the class of 1930 or 1931 can testify whether the work has been worth while, and the accomplishments beyond all expectations.
The course covers a period of sixty nights, three to four hours each evening. Meetings are held two evenings each week. At the start of each class we had approximately sixty men, but we lost quite a few who secured other employment. At the close of the course we had twenty-seven and twentyfour, respectively. You must remember these men are volunteer firemen and when they are compelled to discontinue the course on account of other employment we must submit to the loss. There are very few who discontinue the course of training, once they become interested.
Harrisburg has been very fortunate in having a man graduate from the Philadelphia Fire School. So far as possible, the training he received is followed in the instructions given in the school.
The first thing that confronts you in starting the school is the choosing of the men. In a volunteer department this can only be done by the process of elimination. The school must be open to all and the men eliminate themselves if they are not interested. Sometimes the volunteer is not physically fit to stand the test. This soon makes itself apparent because of the physical exercises used to put the student in proper condition. Eleven evolutions will loosen the joints and harden the muscles to make men fit for service.
Knot tying, host and ladder evolutions, tools and their uses, and first aid are the important subjects which are emphasized and on which the applicant is required to make a satisfactory mark in an examination.
Every Fire Department, regardless of how small, can take up these branches of the work, and the result will be amazing. They will show conclusively that there is a right and wrong way to do things, and a hard and easy way to perform the duties of a fireman.
One of the most important subjects “Tools and Their Uses” must be given special consideration. What is more destructive than an axe or other tool in the hands of some person not familiar with the proper uses of same? With plenty of time for this part of the program, the men will more efficiently perform the duties entrusted to them and they will be a credit to the Fire Department. The real fireman is anxious to learn all he can in this important work.
The school, in order to be a success, must be interesting both front an educational and social standpoint. The men must have a variety from time to time, in order that the work does not become tiresome. We have authorities from different cities who come to lecture on the subjects which we are unable to teach. The use of gas masks, sprinkler systems, standpipe systems, mechanical refrigeration and ventilation have been the subjects of very interesting lectures which have aroused especial interest among the men.
Another all important subject to which I wish to call your attention, is the work of Salvage Operations. This can only be touched upon by our department for the reason we are unable at this time to have a Salvage Corps. We realize that seventyfive per cent of fire losses are traceable to water damages incident to the extinguishment of fires and for this reason the men are instructed in the handling of salvage covers, gaining entrance to buildings involved in fire, and the use of small water lines. These three items on Salvage Operations are very important and while most departments may not be able to support Salvage Corps, they can make use of the three items mentioned to a very good advantage. The result will be very noticeable in your fire losses.
For example: Salvage Covers will protect the furniture from water damage, small water lines will not flood the building and proper entrance to the building will not damage the structure unnecessarily. These are all little things, but the little things plus common sense will put Fire Departments in good repute with the citizens of your communities and bring about the results we are striving to attain.
Ventilation and its proper application of same is another subject which has been found very helpful in our school work. It is very interesting to the men and extremely helpful in fighting fires. It is indispensable. If properly applied it will safeguard the men and make their work less hazardous. Fighting fires in tall buildings, cellars, warehouses and fires of special nature are given a great deal of consideration and study. It has also proven of inestimable value in the school.
There are many subjects to be given consideration in the education of firemen. It is best for every Fire Chief to become affiliated with the International Fire Chiefs Association and to communicate with their headquarters in New York City where information for teaching in any fire department may be received. A few of the subjects covered in the pamphlets issued by the Educational Committee are as follows: Fire Department Tools and Their Uses, Forcible Entry, Auxiliary Fire Fighting Equipment, Oil Storage and Oil Fires, Salvage Operations, Building Inspections, Exposures, Care of Hose, Electrical Hazards, Mechanical Refrigeration and Ventilation. They are but a few of approximately seventy-five recommended by this Committee for use in fire colleges that are being established over the country. We are using all of these in our school and the men are eager to get the knowledge.
Men are taught the proper distance to keep water lines from electric wires, the voltage being recognized by the type insulator used. The local power company will give you cooperation along this line.
We give quite a bit of time to the study of fire hose, its construction and the proper care of same. Every fireman should realize the necessity of having the water carrier in good condition at all times. Water is very essential in extinguishing fires but with a bad carrier it is useless.
Ladder work in the Fire Department is indispensable. Too many Fire Departments neglect this branch of the fire service. All of the men taking the course in our school are taught the operation of the aerial ladder and the proper use of portable ladders. So that the course in this work may be complete, men must not be placed in one position at all times but changed so as to make the course complete.
Mechanical refrigeration is completely covered by lectures, along with the use of gas masks. Electrical refrigeration is part of the modern building. Firemen should be amply protected against the deadly fumes that may permeate the structure and the department should be equipped with proper masks for this emergency.
First aid is essential in training firemen and we give it a great deal of time. Firemen should be taught to take care of themselves when they are risking their lives to save others. People scoff at the idea of first aid but a practical experience will convince the most skeptical this subject must not be overlooked.
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A fireman, in the performance of his duties, was overcome by carbon-monoxide fumes. Artificial respiration was applied forty-five minutes before the patient showed any sign of breathing. The chief was criticized when he refused to give the patient over to hospital attaches. Having faith in artificial respiration taught by an experienced first aid man, the lessons were put into practice and today the fireman is well, in good health, and is performing the duties of the Instructor of the Harrisburg Fire School in a very masterly way. We have in the department two instructors who have completed the American Red Cross School course. These men give the first aid instructions in our Fire School. We insist on five items which the student must know and demonstrate. Male Lift, Female Lift, Three-Man Carry, points at which to stop the flow of blood, and artificial respiration.
You owe it to your community to give it the best fire service possible and the community owes it to you to help make that kind of service possible. The educational program is available and you must take advantage of this golden opportunity. Eleven States have already passed bills appropriating moneys to fire colleges and it is hoped that Pennsylvania will soon join the ranks of those who have already subscribed to this great work of conservation and preservation of America’s resources.
Men must be trained to meet the emergency. The fire school is the proper place for this education for Fire Department work and all moneys expended and efforts put forth are for the benefit of the citizens of the community.