« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
character, a reinspection has been made to learn whether such defects have been remedied, in all such cases the findings of the inspectors having been communicated by the Board to the managers of the institution with the request that proper remedies be applied. Forty-one such reinspections were conducted during the last fiscal year. It is gratifying to be able to report that, as a rule, the response of managers to the recommendations and suggestions of this Board has been both cordial and prompt. In cases where defects are structural in character, so that radical improvements are necessary, involving considerable expense, time will be necessary in which to secure the desired changes.
Particular attention has been paid to the question of fire protection in charitable institutions subject to the inspection of the department. The dreadful holocaust at the Rochester Orphan Asylum on January 8, 1901, furnished a painful object lesson of the necessity for providing every possible expedient for escape or rescue in case of fire. The casual visitor to this particular institution would, in all probability, have pronounced the building fairly well safeguarded against such a catastrophe. The dormitory where the greatest loss of life occurred was but one story and a half above the ground. Along one side of it ran a piazza roof upon which several windows opened. Near by was a fireescape, accessible, unfortunately, only by passage through the hallway in which the fire burned fiercest. So rapidly did the flames spread that death from suffocation seems to have come upon the inmates before they were aroused from sleep. The employment of a night watchman, an additional means of protec tion which has since been put into effect at the Asylum, would, in all probability, have led to an earlier discovery of the fire and thus have prevented the terrible loss of life which ensued.
The importance of the most scrupulous care in such matters was again illustrated in the fire which broke out at midnight at the Shelter for Unprotected Girls, Syracuse, on July 21, 1901. As reported to the Board by its inspector who made careful inquiry into the origin and causes of the fire, "The apparent and generally accepted cause of the fire is that an attendant, subject to fainting spells, in one of these, overturned her lamp, setting fire to the furniture in her room or to her clothing." This accident cost the attendant her life. All the other inmates were rescued through the presence of mind of the matron and her associates. The President of the institution is quoted as saying: "Much relief is now felt that the bars have been removed from the second story windows in accordance with the suggestion of the State Board of Charities, although the inmates were not obliged to escape through these windows." It is quite possible that the knowledge that all possible egress was barred in this direction would have occasioned a panic with fatal consequences.
These instances are cited not because antecedent conditions made the danger from fire greater in these two institutions than in many others, but rather to emphasize the insistence which needs to be placed by this Department and boards of managers upon every possible precaution against fire, and in the event of such catastrophe upon every possible means of escape. While a single board of trustees may feel that the danger of loss of life from fire is comparatively small in its own institution, this Board, multiplying such chances in any given case by the sum total of institutions subject to inspection, realizes that no sug gestion or recommendation on its part which will reduce the danger from this source to a minimum should be omitted. While the inspectors of this department are not experts on fire-proof
construction and kindred subjects, experience and training do entitle the Board's agents to an opinion as to the adequacy or inadequacy of fire protection. In all instances of reasonable doubt, institutions are referred to the local authorities charged with official responsibility in such matters.
There are, moreover, certain means of protection so valuable as safeguards against the danger under discussion, that they might well be made the subject of general legislation. One of these is the erection of fire-escapes on orphan asylums and similar institutions, as required in the case of hospitals by chapter 381, Laws of 1895. Another safeguard might well be furnished by means of an amendment to chapter 201, Laws of 1901, which at present relates only to educational institutions, so as to make applicable to orphan asylums and all charitable institutions for minors the requirement of that statute to the effect, that it shall be the duty of the person in charge of any such institution having more than a hundred inmates to instruct and train them by means of drills, so that they may in a sudden emergency be able to leave the building in the shortest possible time and without confusion and panic. Such drills or rapid dismissals shall be held at least once in each month. One other provision which might well be embodied in a general law applicable to such institutions is a requirement that a night patrol service be maintained, safeguarded by some system of official registration by watchman's clock or similar device, such as is the case in not a few institutions at the present time.
After the lessons of the past and previous years, it should not be necessary to wait for further disasters before these points are securely covered by general legislation. Reliance upon local ordinances is valuable in matters of minor detail,
but questions of general utility, relating to the preservation of life and property, rightfully fall within the province of the State in the exercise of its police powers.
In the report upon the department of inspection, which appears in the 34th annual report of the State Board of Charities for 1900, occurs the following (vol. 1, p. 513):
"Two important duties remain to be more systematically performed by the Department. First, the examination of children, inmates of orphan asylums subject to the inspection of the Board, but not in receipt of public school moneys and consequently not inspected by the State or local school authorities. The education which these children receive bears so important a relation to their future welfare not only, but to that of the communities of which they are soon to become component parts, that more stress should be laid upon this subject by managers of children's homes. In many instances the Department has conducted examinations of the children of such institutions. The work which has been done in this direction has proven that such examinations are fruitful of result in awakening increased interest in an important subject and in creating an influence. for better graded work in orphan asylums
Among the duties of this Board imposed by the State Charities law, scarcely one is more important than the following:
"§ 9. General Powers and Duties of Board.-The State Board of Charities shall visit, inspect and maintain a general supervision of all institutions, societies or associations which are of a charitable, eleemosynary, correctional or reformatory character, whether State or municipal, incorporated or not incorporated, which are made subject to its supervision by the constitution or by law; and shall
"7. Aid in securing the establishment and maintenance of such industrial, educational and moral training in institutions having the care of children as is best suited to the needs of the inmates."
In the performance of this important task, clearly enunciated in the language quoted, a forward step remains to be taken by the Board. In order that the work may be done in an authoritative and expert manner, the Department requires the services. of a school examiner, a man of practical experience as a teacher, and one whose training has been sufficiently broad to enable him to advise not only with reference to the secular education, such as is afforded by the public schools, but as to the introduction of manual and industrial instruction into reformatories and homes for juveniles. The inspectors of the Department are required to touch upon these subjects in the course of their general visitations and inspections of children's institutions, but the matter bears so important a relation to the preparation of the inmates of these homes, for self-support and intelligent citizenship, that a man should be appointed who can devote his entire time to this work.
For this purpose the Legislature is respectfully urged to appropriate the sum of $1,800, a salary which is deemed necessary to command the services of a trained school examiner. In support of such request, the following statistics are cited bearing upon the subject. There are in the State 121 homes for children which are under private control, but in receipt of public money. This number includes infant asylums. The latter in some cases retain children until seven or eight years of age, and maintain kindergarten and primary classes. Of these 121 institutions, there are several which conduct separate branches, one parent institution having no less than nine such branches. These 121 institutions, with their allied branches, have a school population. of 23,781. Of this number 11,043 attend either the public schools or schools maintained in whole or in part by public