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October 22nd, 2014

Great Fires Aren't Good

This column did get printed in time for Fire Prevention Week—it’s just late getting online. But really, shouldn’t something like this be all year round?
Meanwhile, the new publisher has allowed me to write a farewell column for the newspapers I’m no longer employed by, so you’ll see this once more … maybe twice.

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


            The National Fire Prevention Association would like to point out that, if your smoke detector is not working, it won’t work.

            Sure, it seems obvious. But it’s also obvious that if sprinkler systems aren’t installed they don’t put out fires, safety belts that don’t get used aren’t safe, and people who stay in Washington, D.C. turn into blithering idiots. And yet we defeat sprinkler laws, don’t belt up, and reelect blithering idiots, so sometimes the obvious needs saying.

            This is why we have Fire Prevention Week, which is a week during which we try to stress preventing fires. Fire Prevention Week is always nearest October 9th. That’s the historical date of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which took place in 1871, was indeed in Chicago, but really wasn’t all that great.

            “Great” is a term used for fires that get so out of control that they get weeks named after them. The NFPA has devoted itself to keeping fires from turning great, and the best way to do that is to keep them from getting out of control. It’s counterintuitive, but they would not then be called “good”.
           More importantly is to keep people from getting killed in a fire, which is the job of smoke alarms, which are just like smoke detectors except with fewer syllables. A working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a fire in half. You don’t have to be Captain Obvious to see the value of that.Collapse )

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