Would Put Fire Cost on Disobedient

Would Put Fire Cost on Disobedient

Recommends Laws Covering Preventable Fires

The principal work of this Committee outsiile of the circulation of our regular seasons bulletins was confined this year to an effort to secure the passage in states and cities of legislation fixing the cost of extinguishing preventable fires upon persons disobeying fire prevention orders. The Fire Marshals’ Association of North America at their convention in New York in December, voted to put forward this work actively. Our pamphlet on this general subject containing model laws and ordinances was furnished to all the fire marshals, and bills were prepared and presented in several of the states, among them Maine, Massachusetts, Kansas and Minnesota. In order to handle this special campaign more competently George B. Muldaur, New York, a member of this committee, was appointed a special sub-committee charged with this work.

While unable to report the passage of this measure by any of the state legislatures in which it was introduced, a very considerable amount of valuable public educational work was made possible by its introduction. The discussions in the legislatures and their special committees and the newspaper comment upon the bills attracted wide attention and will serve to lay the foundations for successful enactment of sush measures at later legislative sessions. The heavy increase in fire losses incident to the business depression,—not those caused by deliberate incendiarism but those caused by slackness and relaxation of men in caring for property—is a potent argument for such a law. American habits respecting fire are still so careless that a relaxation in fire protection is immediately registered at fire department headquarters, registered later in the fire insurance offices, and finally in the pockets of the people. The passage of these laws we are advocating will make it more difficult for merchants who cannot sell their goods over their counters to sell them to the insurance companies, and it will reduce the number of fires that occur, any one of which, under certain conditions, may result in a conflagration.

The nitro-cellulose motion picture film has given a relatively good account of itself during the year. The co-operation of our member, the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry, has undoubtedly reduced the fire hazard of the motion picture exchanges, only one fire of magnitude, involving a reported loss of a quarter of a million dollars, occurring in a motion picture exchange. By a singular irony of circumstance this fire occurred in the newest and most modern of the buildings of this industry, the photograph of which was exhibited at our last annual meeting. The inflammable film continues to be displayed in many towns and cities of the country in violation of laws and ordinances in buildings without protective booths, but no serious fires or panics due to such hazardous practices have been recently reported. The virtues of the standard booth and the automatic sprinkler were demonstrated during the year by three successive fires in one Southern motion picture house alone. In each case, thanks to such protection, the building and audience escaped injury.

Safeguarded Unfortunates

The Committee took special action during the year toward safeguarding the inmates of hospitals, asylums and similar institutions. Over a million sick, crippled, aged, blind, insane, orphaned and otherwise unfortunate or defective persons are ordinarily found in some ten thousand institutions in our country, yet a hospital burns every day; half that many asylums or other institutions are damaged or destroyed each week. Of every sixteen institutions in the country, one suffers a serious fire each year, and several times as many fires occur without assuming sufficient size to get into the public prints. The number of really safe institutions of this sort is small and in the large majority of the older institutions the conditions frequently are appalling. Wishing therefore to do this year for hospitals what we did for the protection of school houses last year the Commerce printed 13,000 copies of a splendid 52-page illustrated booklet by H. Walter Forster, Chairman of our Committee on Safety to Life, on “Fire Protection for Hospitals, Asylums and Similar Institutions,” a copy of which was placed in the hands of the managers or superintendents of all public institutions in the state and provinces. The function of the pamphlet was to drive home the seriousness of existing conditions, to indicate some of the reasons for these conditions, and to set forth the essential facts that the management of an institution needs to know to enable adequate fire prevention measures to be taken and suitable protection provided.

Besides this special drive for hospital protection the Committee circulated in the fall 37,000 copies of its 4-page leaflet “Precautions Against Freezing of Fire Extinguishing Appliances.” The winter was mild in most localities in the states and no important crippling of sprinkler systems by frost was reported. 40,00 copies of our Christmas Holiday fire warning were issued and 13,000 copies of the Independence Day bulletin. While the use of fireworks has been considerably curtailed by legislation, pyrotechnic display cost in 1919 (the latest statistics available) $109,000 in Ohio, $52,000 in New Yorp, $41,000 in Illinois and lesser sums in the remaining states. Our bulletin for this year reciting these facts was sent to members on May 1st, and we hope that notice of the useless waste indicated therein is being taken by those in authority in the states making unfavorable showings.

In the hope of stimulating correction of defects commonly existing in old buildings, the Committee requested the Committee on Manufacturing Risks and Special Hazards to revise and bring up to date its pamphlet, “Structural Defects Influencing the Spread of Fire.” 15,000 copies of this pamphlet have been published and 5,000 already circulated. This is one of the most useful pieces of literature the Association has ever put out.

*Report of Committee on Public Information, National Fire Protection Association, at annual meeting, Chairman Franklin H. Wentworth.

Five thousand copies of Miss Marshall’s excellent address to the Federation of Women’s Clubs, “Woman’s Part in Fire Prevention,” were reprinted and circulated during the year. Our bulletin, “The Evil Wooden Shingle,” maintains its popularity; 10,000 copies being required to fill the year’s requests for it. Our very popular illustrated bulletin, “Protection of Wall Openings,” was reprinted in an edition of 10,000 copies and is in increasing demand by cities which have their conflagration hazards under consideration. The charman of this committee has continued to write educational articles for the press and to meet speaking engagements in various parts of the country whenever his executive duties would permit. Miss Lloyd Marshall has continued her educational work among the women’s clubs and has succeeded in stimulating several of the state and local federations to make fire prevention a prominent part of their activities. Frank Irving Cooper has been indefatigable in securing consideration by the National Education Association of the important item of protecting schools from fire, and Chief J. W. Stevens up to the moment of his regrettable automobile accident was unceasing in his work of public education.

Several matters were referred to this Committee during the year by the executives for consideration and report. These were:

  1. A proposed campaign for the adoption and exclusive use of the strike-on-box match.
  2. An effort to secure distinguishing markings of lotion picture films.
  3. A campaign on the subject of smoking in factories.
  4. The preparation of a booklet of suggestions for factory signs used in fire prevention.

The Committee considered these four items and reports its conclusions as follows:

  1. It is not believed that a general campaign for the total abolition of the “strike-anywhere” match would succeed at this time nor would its success, if won, bring the beneficial results its advocates might anticipate. Many of the “strike-on-box” type are inferior in the strength of the splints and are not properly treated for after-glow, and may be therefore more of a hazard than the strike-anywhere match. When children are old enough to comprehend it the use of the slot machine as a means of securing boxes of matches is readily adopted. The proper safeguarding of match supplies in the home and the instruction of the children concerning them is properly a responsibility to be assumed by all parents as, except by very young children, one type of match may be misused as easily as another—as adult smokers daily demonstrate.
  2. The proposal that this Committee inaugurate a campaign to secure the adoption of distinguishing markings upon motion picture films indicating the character of the stock on which they are printed has been considered. The Committee bulletin on nitro-cellulose films urges upon our members special vigilance regarding the display of the inflammable film in places without a flame test unless they are marked in some way and such a test is commonly impracticable. All of the film in the narrow or non-professional width is supposed to be upon slow-burning stock, but much of this film is imported and at times has been found to be below the standard of slow-burning stock. If films of the professional width were never used for non-professional display the dimensions of the film ribbon would itself be a sufficient identification, but there is a growing practice of printing educational films on the professional width stock in order that they may be shown when occasion permits in the regular motion picture houses. There is a gratifying increase of the use of slow-burning stock in the production of special films in the professional width, but when such films are offered for non-professional display in places without a standard booth the word of the operator that the film is on slow-burning stock is the only voucher. The president of our Association was besieged during the year by the educational authorities of New York City to use his influence to permit the non-professional display of such films in that city in places not equipped with booths. Phis he declined to do because of the impossibility of distinguishing the inflammable from the slow-burning film when printed in the professional width without identifying marks.
  3. Recommends Distinguishing Mark

    It is the thought of the committee that much would be gained if a distinguishing mark might be secured for the slow-burning film alone, the assumption being that all film not so marked should be treated as inflammable stock. We are able to report that the largest film manufacturer in America, and practically the only one in the country at the present time making the slow-burning film, has undertaken to mark all the films produced by him on acetate or slow-burning stock with the words “safety film,” this marking appeared at 17-inch intervals along one of the perforated edges. We believe for the proper protection of the public that all manufacturers of safety film should be required to distinguish this product by the words “safety” printed along the edge with the name of the maker, and that all such film should be subject to periodical inspection by Underwriters Laboratories or other reliable agency. The Committee proposes to continue its consideration of this matter.

  4. As to the suggested campaign on the subject of smoking, this committee has no vehicle other than agitation with which to make such a campaign effective in the mills and factories of the country. The hazard of smoking becomes more startling with every publication of statistics, but it is a hazard so intimately woven into the daily habit of men, and increasingly the habit of women, as to prove a stupendous problem. The hazard of matches is an intimate part of it. The tobacco manufacturers have been entirely unresponsive to appeals for their assistance even to the extent of printing fire warnings upon their packages of smoking tobacco, a very easy thing to do. We believe that some effort should be made by the association to overcome their indifference and inspire in them a sense of their obligation to assist in checking the ravages that directly result from the consumption of their products.
  5. (Continued on page 186)


    (Continued from page 185)

    In May of last year, at the request of the Forest Service, Secretary of Agriculture Meredith addressed a letter to the six leading tobacco companies requesting their co-operation in fire prevention work by enclosing printed warnings in tobacco and cigarette cans and boxes. Only one of the six even replied to the letter. We are to have at this meeting an address by a government official on the important subject of “Smoking and Forest Fires,” and this Committee urges a thoughtful discussion of that paper with suggestions from members as to how the entire subject of the fire hazards of smoking may best be handled.

  6. As to the suggestion that this Committee prepare a booklet containing illustrations of signs to be posted in mills, factories and other plans the Committee feels that as this subject is already so well covered by a number of firms who are prepared to furnish on short notice both stock and special signs of every text and character, a duplication of this work would be of little value either to the association or its members.

We recommend that the Secretary of the Association be requested to publish in the news letter a list of manfacturers of such signs who may be willing to send their illustrated catalogues to members desiring to be advised of the forms and types of signs now available. The only sign regularly furnished by the Association is our red and black “No Smoking” sign. This has been in constant demand in small quantities as usual throughout the year.

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