Since 1922, the National Fire Protection Association has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week. This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” The objective of this year’s message is to provide education about the small, but important, actions you can take to keep yourself and those around you safe.
In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country. Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of Oct. 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on Oct. 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This conflagration lasted for two days and killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.
According to the NFPA, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds in your home. Escape planning and practice can help you make the most of the time you have, giving everyone enough time to get out. In a fire, mere seconds can mean the difference between a safe escape and a tragedy.
NFPA reports that 3,400 civilians died in fires in 2017. Of these deaths, 77% occurred in the home. Your local firefighters encourage you to recognize that fire safety education is not just for schoolchildren. Teenagers, adults, and the elderly are also at risk in fires, making it important for every member of your family to follow two simple steps to prepare for an emergency. These steps are Make a Plan and Practice the Plan.
Make a Plan
Make sure that you are familiar with your family’s escape plan. The escape plan should be created with all the members of your family and should be available for everyone to see and review. Your plan should include two ways out and show a safe place for your family to meet. Identify all of the exits and mark them on your escape plan. Make sure that everyone knows the importance of "get out and stay out" so your family members stay safe during an emergency.
Practice the Plan
It is essential that you and your family are prepared to respond to the fire alarm when it sounds in your home. Smoke from a fire is toxic and deadly no matter where you live. When you practice your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to the exit. Make sure everyone knows to meet all your family members at your designated meeting place.
If you’d like to visit a fire department open house, the Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire District is hosting one at their fire station on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Even if your local fire department is not holding an event as part of Fire Prevention Week, their members are always happy to have visitors and can help answer your fire safety questions.
Maybe you are already a hero in your house or your community. If not, your local firefighters are hoping you are feeling inspired to become one. Be courageous, help others in need, but most importantly, be the person who takes small, but important actions to keep yourself and those around you safe from fire. It's easy to take that first step — make your home escape plan! For more information about fire prevention and escape planning visit www.nfpa.org.
This column was written by Jane Perkins, fire safety specialist for the Rhode Island Southern Firefighters League and captain of the Watch Hill Fire Department. If you would like to see a question answered in this column, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.