In the past 10 years we have given help in rehabilitation and disaster occurring on an average of one every 2 days. And ever since that time, it has been a major Red Cross responsibility to relieve the human suffering and misery caused by fires – and, through educational prevention programs, to help reduce the number of fires.
The Red Cross congressional charter states – and I’d like to quote – that we must “continue and carry on a system of national and international relief in time of peace and apply the same in mitigating the suffering caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods, and other great national calamities and to devise and carry on measures for the prevention of the same.” And I would emphasize the last phrase. I can think of no gathering where the question as to what the Red Cross actually does about fire prevention could be better asked – and answered – than at this Conference.
First, because nearly 9 million Americans have completed Red Cross accident-prevention and first-aid courses within the past 7 years. Take first-aid courses, for example. We cannot teach how to treat a burn without giving counsel about preventing fires, the cause of so many fires, getting out of burning buildings, and turning in alarms. We cannot teach accident prevention without giving information about common fire hazards and how to eradicate them.
A major part of all Red Cross accident-prevention courses is devoted to reducing the hazards of fires in homes and on farms. Red Cross training objectives in this field – and again I quote – are “to focus upon individual responsibility in the prevention of fires and the elimination of fire hazards – and also to acquaint students fully with the programs of fire prevention as conducted by the state and local communities.”
American Red Cross workers, serving at 581 major fires throughout the United States during the past 7 years, saw again and again the enormous toll of life and property which occurs year after year. Many of these workers are still on the scene of the Texas City explosion and fire; others are in the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle areas where fire followed tornado. Last year Red Cross men and women served at the Winecoff, LaSalle, and other hotel conflagrations which took more than 270 lives.
Yes, your Red Cross sees at first hand the dire need of greater fire prevention education.
And now – secondly – because the Red Cross works directly with the United States Forestry and the United States Weather Bureau in fire prevention, fire spotting, and disaster preparedness. Early in 1945, special forest fire prevention committees were set up by Red Cross in each of its five area offices. Through its network of 3,754 chapters, the Red Cross has helped circulate films, posters, pamphlets, cartoons, radio skits, and other attention-compelling publicity to schools, libraries, filling stations, lumber companies, railroads, and hotels.
My third and possibly most important point – deals with Red Cross fire prevention work among 19,000,000 young Americans – members of the American Junior Red Cross.
There is where our greatest hope for the future lies. This year seven area training centers, established in cooperation with the United States Forest Service, have enrolled hundreds of