WHAT SHOULD BE STRESSED IN TEACHING FIRE PREVENTION TO PUBLIC?
Subject Should Be Treated in Interesting and Not Too Dry Manner, in Order to Hold Attention of Hearer and Impress Its Need
FIRE Prevention as a live subject has but a small place in the activities of the average citizen. Most persons are not enough interested to realize that there is a certain benefit awaiting them, should they gain and put into practice even a slight working knowledge of the subject.
Of course, I am willing to concede that the subject as too often discussed is rather deadly and monotony quickly kills interest. After all, the making effective of real fire prevention measures is merely the application of good common sense, plus a little knowledge of basic principles, plus at least a slight realization of the profit to be gained by following such practices. What the eye sees, the mind usually retains. Therefore, if we can place before the average person a certain few common hazards in such a way as to visualize those hazards, we can hold his interest and probably implant in his mind certain fundamentals that will never leave him.
The Dust Hazard
Let us begin with the so-called “dust hazard.” Such a hazard exists in many more places than one might suspect off hand. We find it to a greater or less degree in coal mines, coal grinding plants, cork mills, linoleum plants, soap works, milk powder plants, flour and feed mills, grain elevators, starch factories, metal powder plants, woodworking plants, threshing machines—in fact, in any factory or property where fine dust of a flammable material is made or is handled. Such dusts, when of the requisite fineness and when mixed with air in the proper proportions, are as explosive as gas mixtures, only needing a spark or flame to ignite them and thus pull the trigger of disaster.
The Electrical Hazard
Let us consider for a moment the electrical hazard. It is just as well to state at the start that it is not the use, hut the misuse of electricity that causes our troubles. The National Electrical Code has now been in operation for a sufficient length of time so that almost all original electrical installations are or should be made in conformity therewith; so we usually start with a good factor of safety. Yes, the installation is properly made, the right fuses are put in place, and the good electrical equipment is turned over to an owner to have and to operate and to change to an owner who knows little or nothing about it. If the latter knows nothing it probably will not be so bad, becattse if additional wiring is wanted, or if a fuse blows, or something else happens, he will get in touch with a competent electrician or the electric light people and they will take care of things as they should be taken care of. But, if the owner knows a little—well “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
Unfortunately, too many of us are in this latter class. We love to tinker. We add equipment and additional wiring, not realizing where we are headed. Due to overload a fuse has blown. We put in another and again it blows. We look on the end of the fuse plug and see the figure “15.” We don’t know just what “15” really means, but let’s get one with “50” on it; “50” is considerably more than “15” and maybe that will do the trick. Or possibly this happens in an apartment house, where the janitor has a smattering of electrical lore and, being indolent by nature and seeing no good in constant fuse replacemets, he short-circuits the fuse by means of a coin or piece of metal. The stage is now set for dangerous overloading, with the consequent heating and arcing that causes fires.
The Gasoline Hazard
Let us turn to another thing that is yearly taking a very considerable toll in lives and in the destruction of property: gasoline and kindred liquids, particularly when used for home cleansing and for starting fires. Gasoline has but one place about the house, and that is in the tank of the automobile. When we consider its qualities, we may readily see that it has no place as a home cleanser, a use to which it is too often out.
(Excerpts from a paper read before the annual convention of the New England Association of Fire Chiefs.)