October has been designated as National Fire Prevention Month—a time when public service departments across America join forces to spread the word about fire safety.
Sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Fire Prevention Month has roots that date back to The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people and left more than 100,000 homeless. The fire, which was reportedly started in a barn, also burned more than 2,000 acres and destroyed about 17,400 structures. The three-day fire, which started October 8, did most of its damage on October 9, 1871, which is why Fire Prevention Week is always held around that date. The first National Fire Prevention Day was declared by President Woodrow Wilson in 1922, and the week-long observance is the longest running public safety and health campaign on record.
In 2000, the NFPA extended Fire Prevention Week to include the entire month of October. Each year, a nationwide theme is chosen and localities gear their campaigns toward it. Some of them include:
- “Practice Your Escape Plan” (2007)
- “Home Cooking Fires: Watch What You Heat!” (2006)
- “Use Candles with Care – When You Go Out Blow Out!” (2005)
- “Test Your Smoke Alarms” (2004)
- “When Fire Strikes, Get Out!” (2003)
- “Team Up For Fire Safety” (2002)
- “Cover the Bases and Strike Out Fire” (2001)
- “Fire Drills – The Great Escape” (2000)
In a fire, seconds count. Seconds can mean the difference between residents of our community escaping safely from a fire or having their lives end in tragedy.
That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme: “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” is so important. It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan. Here’s this year’s key campaign messages:
- Draw a map of your home using this Fire Escape Plan Grid , marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
- Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.
Home fires can start and spread quickly, which is why we all need to be careful and educated when it comes to fire safety. Just a little bit of planning can make a big difference for your family.
In 2013, 334 children died in home fires. Eighty-seven percent of all fire-related deaths are due to home fires, which spread rapidly and can leave families as little as two minutes to escape once an alarm sounds. Fires are not just a problem in the United States. In 2008, nearly 61,000 children around the world died due to a fire or burn.
What You Can Do At Home
- Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent. They are a critical first step for staying safe, but in order to be effective, they have to be working properly. For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every sleeping area.
- Teach kids never to play with matches and lighters. Make a habit of placing these items up and away from young children.
- Create and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room in case of a fire. Get a stopwatch and time how fast your family can escape.
- Children should know how to respond to the sound of a smoke alarm. Teach them to get low and get out when they hear it. A child who is coached properly ahead of time will have a better chance to be safe.
- Use common sense in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don’t leave a hot oven or stovetop unattended.
- Blow out candles before you leave the room or before you go to sleep.
- For more information, check out our previously posted blog on Fire Safety Tips.
A Final Thought
Don’t wait until disaster strikes to find out about fire safety. Download this list of Fire Safety Tips and this handy Fire Safety Checklist. As well, there are many Web sites dedicated to fire prevention that can help you figure out a good plan of action for your family:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- National Fire Protection Association
- Sparky the Fire Dog
- Red Cross
- U.S. Fire Administration
Sources: safekids.org, nfpa.org