EXTINGUISHER, n. 1) He or that which extinguishes. 2. A hollow conical utensil to be put on a candle to extinguish it.
Notice that the definition includes the action verb form. I don’t suppose it is an extinguisher unless it actually extinguishes a fire. It doesn’t say that an extinguisher could “possibly, under ideal circumstances” put out a fire.
How many lives might have been saved in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, had someone had a fire extinguisher nearby when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow allegedly started the barn fire which devastated the City of Chicago! (Over 300 died).
Of course, we all know small fires can turn into big fires rather quickly. I remember one-hour training I received at one work place suggested whole houses can be up in flames in less than 10 minutes after a fire starts. This was why I was intrigued by an email sent out by “The Director of Safety Training” at a fine educational institution many moons ago.
After explaining the importance of knowing where the fire exits were, how to sound the alarm if you spot a fire, and if, when and how to return to a building after an alarm stops sounding, he turned to the subject of fire extinguishers:
Here is what he said:
You’ll notice that I said nothing about grabbing a fire extinguisher and using it to put out a fire. OSHA requires that employees who are assigned to use fire extinguishers be trained annually. This training includes knowing the types of fires, types of fire extinguishers, how to choose the right type of extinguisher to fight a fire, and the proper use of a fire extinguisher. To my knowledge there has not been annual training given to the faculty and as a result no one is expected to use a fire extinguisher. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. Let’s be safe in everything we do!!
After many years of contemplation, here are my questions, sir.
Why have fire extinguishers if nobody can use them?
How many years of training does it take to learn how to use those things?
Is it true that OSHA only requires that those who use fire extinguishers be trained, but doesn’t require anybody to actually be trained or to actually use a fire extinguisher?
Did your employees feel safer after they got your letter?
Okay maybe Mrs O’Leary did have a fire extinguisher, but was never properly trained. Noah Webster should go back and tweek his definition a little.
David is currently an adjunct instructor of Composition and Speech at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. His wife and he have also owned a business selling antique and collectible postcards on eBay since 1999. David was an activist with Operation Rescue in the early 1990s. He is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church in Johnston, Iowa.
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