Methodkally, determinedly, Britons are "digging in "against the airraid threat
LOIS REYNOLDS KERRJuly151938
Methodkally, determinedly, Britons are "digging in "against the airraid threat
LOIS REYNOLDS KERR
THIS building where I waited was a bank building, one of the two or three most important banks in London, which is the heart of the British Empire. The executive official I had come to see greeted me genially. He was smiling, cordial.
“Oh, most decidedly,” he said, answering my questions. “We have our A.R.P. ready, like a winter overcoat.” A.R.P. is a recent collection of initials added to the official British vocabulary. In time, no doubt, it will come to be spoken without the punctuation— Arp just as in War years, D.O.R.A. was, simply, Dora. Familiarity in Great Britain breeds new slang, and the British are becoming very familiar with A.R.P. which stands for Air Raid Precautions.
Air Raid Precautions. There is no war in Britain. There is war in Spain and in China. Those fantastically horrible things that are happening to civilian populations in Spain and China have compelled the Government of Great Britain to organize its Air Raid Precautions campaign with a driving intensity never before experienced by the British in peace time.
The campaign involves gas masks and gas-mask instruction for every man, woman and child in Great Britain, as well as gasand bomb-proof shelters in private houses, and business and public buildings. It calls for volunteers the Government is asking for a million men and women to train in its various divisions. You get A.R.P. information and instruction from your radio. Newsreels show A.R.P. squads in action. Posters carry A.R.P. appeals. Shop windows display A.R.P. requisites. Physicians and nurses study A.R.P. emergencies in hospitals. Young men and women attend A.R.P. classes, just as they attend classes in automotive engineering or domestic science. Public demonstrations of A.R.P. materials, tactics and technique are being held all over the country. The churches are backing A.R.P., as a purely defensive measure for the protection of the civilian population. There is an A.R.P. Section in the Empire Exhibition at Glasgow.
Business Buildings Have Refuges
AND LONDON in particular is going in for A.R.P. • shelters on an elaborate scale.
In the case of the bank shelter already mentioned—there are dozens like it in London now, and others under construction— the refuge is a bombproof structure in the basement of the bank building itself. First consideration in the design, the manager told me. had been protection from high explosive bombs, then from incendiary bombs, with gas defense third. His opinion was that the actual danger from gas had been overestimated.
This particular building has six floors above ground, three below. I cannot imagine a more carefully planned shelter within an existing building. I envy the 1,500 employees the protection which would be theirs if an air raid occurred tomorrow.
As we descended to the first basement. I saw on the wall large colored circles. The manager explained that these were guides to the various shelters. Each member of the staff knew what color to follow, what stair to use, what shelter to occupy.
At the bottom of the stairs we passed through an air lock in which were receptacles for gas-contaminated clothing. Once through the lock, on either end of which were huge steel gas-tight doors. I saw long bright corridors flanked on both sides with wooden benches hinged back
against the walls so as not to interfere with the present occupancy of the basement.
Washrooms had been fully equipped as decontaminating centres. First-aid rooms were set aside and fully furnished. Fire equipment was installed.
Huge gasproof steel doors stood ready beside entrances to elevator shafts, to be locked over them at short notice.
My guide took me down to the second basement, then to the third. Each was adapted as the first.
I was shown the huge ventilation plant in the second basement, the large white machines occupying the whole of a fairly large r;x>m. This machine, the manager explained, functioned in the capacity of a huge gas mask for the occupants of the entire refuge.
Lectures, he said, had been in progress for some time, with members of the staff co-ojxrating in lirst-aid, antigas and decontamination precautions. The basements of the three main buildings had been ready for over a year, but increased activity had resulted since the Austrian Anschluss.
In a large West End department store, the A.R.P. controller explained to me the plans this particular establishment had made for protection of its 2.500 employees as well as for the 5,(XX) or 6,000 shoppers who, it is estimated, would likely be in the store at the time of a daylight air raid.
The borough in which the store is located is training about thirty of the staff as A.R.P. wardens. 'I hese will act as leaders among their fellow workers.
In addition to this, the superintendent of fire for the store is giving instruction in fire-fighting to employees, and an employee who is a qualified St. John Ambulance instructor, along with the staff doctor, is training employees in first-aid and antigas precautions.
In all. about 500 members of the staff will have completed A.R.P. training in the next few months.
This store’s refuges will not be in the basement. They will lx located on the first floor of the building. It is thought that by choosing the first floor, the danger from gas, which tends to concentrate near the ground, will be diminished.
The building is of heavy concrete structure, and as there will be four floors above this, the danger from incendiary bombs will be negligible, as will be the danger from any other bomb except the heavy armor-piercing bomb against which no shelter above or beneath ground is proof.
The glass windows will be protected against blast and splinters, and the entire floor will lx made reasonably gas tight. It will be assumed that all persons in the store will have their gas masks, as in war time everybody will be expected to carry them at all times.
There will be four concentration areas on the refuge fkx>r to which employees and the public will go as soon as the air-raid warning is given.
Also on this floor will be three first-aid and cleansing centres.
If there is an air raid, organization of the entire premises will be effected from a main control r;x>m. Telephone operators will keep the control room in constant touch with all parts of the building, as well as with the borough town hall, the police station, the hospital, and the fire-brigade headquarters.
Signal lights on every fl;x>r will precede a siren warning, and will send A.R.P, personnel hurrying to their duties.
On each floor there will be a fire-fighting squad, and n gas patrol. In one given centre will be a building and repair squad, to lx called to any part of the promises if necessary.
From the main control room to the concentration areas there will be loud sjx-aker communication by which music, news and instructions may lx* broadcast.
HTIIAT WILL give you some idea of the manner in which business organizations are co-operating with the Government in the A.R.P. campaign; but the Government itself, working through the local councils, is planning many other types of defense against bombs and gas.
Public baths will serve an important purpose in the A.R.P. plans of most local authorities. A London public bath usually is a combination of swimming pool, bath r;x>ms and laundry. You can enjoy a first-class or secondclass swim, a firstor second-class tub, and rent the use of a
rent use a
washing machine for sixpence an hour. A.R.P. calls for the conversion of these conveniences into first-aid and decontamination stations. Lime Grove Baths in Hammersmith, for example, are to lx used as a first-aid and cleansing centre. The women will use the first-class section and the men the secondclass section. A person injured or contaminated with gas will pass into the building through an air lock into an undressing room, through a second air lock into the cleansing room, where he will have a bath, through a third air lock into the first-aid room for treatment if necessary, thence into the dressing room where he will be supplied with clothes, and then he will go home.
Approved types' of air-raid shelters have been constructed for public exhibition and demonstrations. Two main designs are featured, the first to show how a room
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within an existing building can be adapted as a refuge. The second is a gallery shelter, which can be built out-of-doors, either completely underground or wholly or partly above ground.
The basement shelter has a special ceiling of flat sections of steel supported by steel channels to withstand the force of explosions and the weight of collapsed masonry. There are splinterproof steel doors, edged with rubber to make them gas-tight, at each end of the shelter, and a similar gas-tight fitment covers the window. A covered manhole in the ceiling provides an emergency exit.
At the outer entrance is an air lock where people entering from the street would cleanse their shoes with a mixture of sand and chloride of lime, also divest themselves of all gas-contaminated clothing, whic would lie placed in a gas-tight container. They would then pass through the inner steel door to the shelter itself.
This shelter is eighteen feet long, seven feet wide, and seven feet high. With its special filtration plant, it will accommodate twenty-one people in comfort for any length of time. Without the ventilation system it will accommodate six people for six hours. The air filter, driven by electricity, can be operated by hand should the current fail.
To afford emergency lighting and to prevent panic in darkness, luminous paint lias been applied to parts of the walls and to handles of doors. The paint, which illuminates by absorbing and emitting either natural or artificial light, is effective over a long period.
While I was in this shelter, the lights were turned off. A bluish glow appeared wherever the paint had been applied.
THE outdoor refuge—twenty-two feet long, about six feet wide and seven feet high—is a gallery shelter similar to the type used in mines. It is of steel which, curving upward and locking in the form of an arch, withstands tremendous pressure.
The shelter is reinforced at each end with brick and concrete, and is covered with rubble and sandbags to a depth of two feet, six inches. This shelter has its air lock, splinterproof steel doors, and luminous painted panels. It also has an air-filtration plant.
Such a shelter affords protection against all gases, bomb splinters, and the force of explosions—against everything except a direct hit from a very large bomb.
A number of large industrial firms are planning shelters of the outdoor type. The installation of these shelters has also been undertaken by some private schools.
Hotel and flat proprietors, too, are beginning to take measures for the safety of those on their premises.
A new block of modem flats just behind the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park is advertised as the first block of flats in the
country with a gasand bomb-proof shelter for the sole use of its tenants. (The authorities of the Zoological Gardens, j incidentally, are making provision for shelters for the animals.)
Two women who own a hotel in Paddington have made provision for a refuge for 2(X) occupants.
A baby hospital in Ladbrook Square is adapting a nurses’ cottage for use as a shelter for staff and patients.
For ten days recently the Westminster City Council held an exhibit and test of i gas masks in a large store in Piccadilly I Circus. Thousands of Londoners flocked 1 to find out what they might look forward to in an air raid. I was one of them.
I lined up for my turn in the gas chamber. An attendant fitted me with a gas j mask, and told me to remember that I wear the medium size. In England today you must remember the size of your gas mask, just as you would the size of your shoes.
The first two or three breaths were difficult. I thought the mask did not fit well, because the air I breathed out escaped by forcing out the rubber around my cheeks. The attendant assured me this was the way the civilian mask worked.
With five others I was taken into the gas chamber. We entered an air lock first, then the chamber itself, which was filled with a high concentration of tear gas. Nothing happened. The presence of the gas was not in any way evident, and there was no particular discomfort. After some minutes in the gas-filled chamber we were ushered out, through another air lock.
Types of Gas Masks
THERE ARE three types of gas masks.
The heaviest, that worn with a protective suit, is for those who have to deal with contamination cases, or those who must for hours at a time be out in a high concentration of gas. The second type of mask is called the civilian duty respirator. This will be worn by wardens and others whose duties expose them to the danger of gas to any considerable degree, 'lhe third type is the civilian respirator, the lightest of all.
It is made of two pieces, the rubber which fits around the face, strapped over the head, and the charcoal filter apparatus.
'l he civilian masks are at present stored by the Government at central depots in airtight containers for preservation. When the local authorities are sufficiently organized, the masks will lx: sent to depots provided by them, and thence to smaller depots.
Air-raid wardens are responsible for the distribution of gas masks. '1 hey will call at the homes for whose occupants they are responsible, and fit each resident for size of mask. These calls are to be made as s;xm as the local councils are sufficiently advanced with their plans, and enough wardens have been trained.
All sorts of Government-issued handbooks, charts, and shelter designs are available in the shops for a penny or so apiece. They cover every possible angle of bomb and gas protection. Generally speaking, the authorities urge that people who are at home when an air raid is signalled, remain there. The period between an air-raid warning and the arrival of the invading fliers would be brief, probably between seven and ten minutes. Citizens, they say. are as safe in their own homes as they would be. anywhere else, if they have , taken the necessary A.R.P. measures j beforehand. Congestion, possibly panic, and death in the streets would result if any | large numbers of jiersons left their homes , in a probably futile attempt to reach a j public shelter.
Great Britain is taking the menace of invasion from the air with grim seriousness. A.R.P. proves that.
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