By District Fire Chief Bruce Angier
For more than 80 consecutive years, the President of the United States has signed a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week, signaling fire departments across the nation to teach fire safety in their communities. This year’s Fire Prevention Week is October 8th to 14th, but you can expect to see our firefighters and public educators promoting fire safety all month long. This year’s theme is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!”; it’s an effort to reinforce why everyone needs to have an escape plan.
Fire Prevention Week was first established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 buildings, and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire started on October 8th, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871. It was clear after the fire that more had to be done to educate the public about fire safety. Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9th falls.
Fires in this country remain a significant problem to this day. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, both the number of fires and fire deaths rose during the year 2014. There were 1,298,000 fires, resulting in 3,275 deaths in 2014. Fires caused almost 16,000 injuries and $11.6 billion in losses in just that one year.
While the number of fires had been trending downward since 2005, the number of fire deaths is trending upward. This upward trend is alarming. It re-enforces the importance of Fire Prevention Week and for ensuring your home is safe from accidental fires. By following some basic fire safety precautions, you can help reduce your home’s risk of fire.
- Have an escape plan and practice it with your family. Plan for at least two ways to escape every room in the house, if practical. Make sure windows and doors to your home are unblocked. Teach children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.
- 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.
- Ensure your home’s smoke detectors are working properly. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least annually. If your smoke detectors are more than ten years old, replace them.
- Handle gasoline and propane around the house with care. Keep both out of children’s sight and reach. Only store gasoline in approved metal or plastic containers and store both gasoline and propane outside of the home (i.e. in a garage or lawn shed). Never use gasoline inside the home as a cleaning agent.
Your family’s ability to survive a house fire largely depends on advanced warning from smoke alarms and advanced escape preparation. Weston’s Fire Safety Educator is planning fire prevention activities and presentations in all of Weston’s elementary schools during October for Fire Prevention Week. Activities include a fire safety “treasure hunt” and fire truck visits. By reviewing and re-enforcing the fire safety information received in the schools with your children at home, your entire family can be better prepared for a fire emergency.
For more information, please contact Fire Chief Bruce Angier at Fire Station 81 at 954-389-2015 or by email at Bruce_Angier@sheriff.org.