National Fire Prevention Week has been promoted by the National Fire Prevention Association since the early 1920s, gaining official recognition from President Calvin Coolidge in 1925. It is observed each year during the week of October 9th to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which tore through Chicago on October 8th, 1871.
Today, National Fire Prevention Week is honored as an opportunity for community education and fire safety measures. With more than 1.3 million fires per year in the United States alone, fire prevention awareness is more important than ever. And the leading cause of residential fires is something you probably do every day: cooking causes approximately one in three of these fires. With that in mind, take this week as an opportunity to discuss fire safety in your home and make sure your family is prepared.
How can you get involved at home for National Fire Prevention Week
During National Fire Prevention Week, there are a few things you can do at home to improve fire safety and preparedness for the entire year.
Create an escape plan: Having a home escape plan is an essential step in making sure your whole family knows what to do in case of emergency. Identify escape routes from each room in your home and choose a safe meeting place outside. If you have younger family members, make sure they know how to dial 911. Don’t forget to have an evacuation plan in place for your pets, too.
Conduct family fire drills: Once you have your escape plan in place, it’s time to practice! The U.S. Fire Administration has a family-friendly fire drill worksheet to that lets the whole household get involved. Try to hold a family fire drill twice per year.
Identify hazards: Go room to room through your home to identify and eliminate all potential fire hazards. While some hazards are obvious, others might not be. For example, loose electrical outlets are hard to spot, but they’re a quick and easy fire prevention fix.
Fire safety tools you should have in your home
There are a few tools and supplies that every home should have in case of a fire. These include:
- Smoke alarms
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Fire extinguishers in every room
- Fire sprinklers
- A fireproof lock box for essential documents
Of course, you should regularly test equipment like smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they have batteries and are in working order. Check fire extinguishers for an expiration date; these should be replaced every few years.
How to make your community safer during National Fire Prevention Week
Once you have a fire escape plan in place at home, there’s plenty you can do to help your community stay safe. Carol Reardon, Captain of Fire Safety and Public Education at the Durham City Fire Department, emphasizes that National Fire Prevention Week is the perfect time for community preparedness. “Small changes can make a huge impact,” says Reardon. “Plan meetings with your neighbors and local fire department to discuss how to protect your community.”
Here are a few fire prevention tips from Reardon to bring to your community meeting:
- Make sure your local fire department has adequate resources for training, staffing, and equipment
- Discuss community wildfire prevention initiatives
- Clean roofs, gutters, and decks of debris
- Make sure houses are clearly numbered and driveways are clear
- Keep an emergency bag of personal items in case you are asked to evacuate
- Create a “safe zone” of 100 feet around your home
- Keep wood piles at least 30 feet from your home
- Practice two routes out of your neighborhood in case a road is blocked
After National Fire Prevention Week is over, your local fire department still needs your help to keep the community safe. Reardon points out that while the number of fires across the United States decreases each year, fire-related deaths are on the rise. The only way to keep that number down is by making sure first responders can get to the scene as quickly as possible. “Seconds count in an emergency,” says Reardon. “Always call 911 before putting it on social media. When you see the red lights, move to the right and wait for emergency vehicles to pass.”