In a perfect world, every week is Fire Prevention Week.
But we do not live in a perfect world. In fact, we live in a world where fires break out every day. And in our particular country, a house fire is reported many times a day—one every 85 seconds, to be exact. And in 2010 as a whole, U. S. fire departments responded to 369,500 house fires that resulted in 2,640 deaths, 13,350 injuries and $6.9 billion in damage.
So there is certainly a dire need for Fire Prevention Week. And everyone at Liberty Mutual Insurance—in partnership with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)—hope that a little extra attention can result in a lot more safety.
The international nonprofit NFPA was established all the way back in 1896, with a mission to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life—by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.
Fire Prevention Week was established a bit later in 1922 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres on October 8-9, 1871.
Every year since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls, making it America’s longest-running public health and safety observance.
This year, Fire Prevention Week runs from Oct. 7-13, and the theme is “Have 2 Ways Out!” This theme was created to emphasize that as good as one home fire escape route is, it’s not always good enough. And that once a plan is established, it must also be practiced to be effective.
What if your first escape route is blocked by smoke or flames? Or falling debris has rendered the planned exit path too dangerous to venture down?
That’s why having two ways out is such a key part of your home fire escape plan. Not just two ways out of your home, but wherever possible, two ways out of every room in your home.
It’s important to not only develop a solid escape plan, but to practice it until it becomes second nature. That way, if the smoke alarm sounds, you and your family can think fast and act quickly— even if you are waking up in the middle of the night. According to an NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. It is time to help raise this statistic.
When it comes to house fires, the majority of them begin in the same room, regardless of the house or the zip code it resides in—the kitchen.
For the past 22 years in America, cooking has been the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries. In 2010 alone, cooking caused 42 percent of reported house fires, 37 percent of house fire injuries and 15 percent of home fire deaths. Two out of every three home cooking fires began with the ignition of cooking materials, including food, cooking oil, fat or grease.
So in addition to having two ways out of your kitchen, it is best for you and your family to study several tips to avoid the outbreak of kitchen fires—while remembering that fires can still start in every other room.
To this end, the folks at the NFPA developed their own top 10 list of home fire safety tips. This list was comprised in light of the previously cited 2011 NFPA report that cited cooking equipment and smoking materials as the biggest dangers when it comes to home fires.
1. Careful with your cooking: Stay in the kitchen when you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave, even for just a short time, always turn off the stove.
2. Give space heaters space: Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can catch fire. Turn off all heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
3. Only smoke outside: Ask all smokers to smoke outside, at all times. Keep sturdy, deep ashtrays on hand for any smokers who may visit or dwell in your home.
4. Lock up the matches and lighters: Keep any and all matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children. If possible, store them in a cabinet with a child-safe lock.
5. Inspect electrical cords: Replace cords that are cracked, damaged, or have broken plugs or loose connections.
6. Be careful with candles: Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that can catch fire. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
7. Hatch a home fire escape plan: Make a home fire escape plan. Practice it at least twice a year.
8. Install smoke alarms: Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside all bedrooms and outside all sleeping areas. Interconnect smoke alarms throughout the home if you can. That way, when one sounds, they all sound.
9. Test smoke alarms: Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries once a year—or whenever the alarm “chirps” to announce the battery is low. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old. 10. Install sprinklers: If you’re building or remodeling your home, install residential fire sprinklers. Sprinklers can contain and may even extinguish a fire in less time that it would take the fire department to arrive. Automatic fire sprinkler systems cut the risk of dying in a home fire by about 83 percent.