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Fire Prevention Week is Coming, are You Ready?

This year Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 7-13 and the theme is "Practice Your Escape Plan."

It's that time of year again, Fire Prevention Week. Does your department have something planned for the week? It is the one time of the year that one week is dedicated for the fire service to deliver the message about fire safety.

Fire prevention week is observed for one week each October, - the week that falls around the ninth, because it is the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. President Woodrow Wilson issued the first presidential proclamation designating Oct. 9 as Fire Prevention Day in 1920.

In 1922, it was expanded to a full week. Since 1925, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week. It is the longest running public health/safety awareness program in U.S. history.

This year Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 7-13 and the theme is "Practice Your Escape Plan." The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) spearheads the national Fire Prevention Week campaign. They have a lot of good material that you can use for your campaign, including the official Fire Prevention Week poster. You can order material for your campaign directly from their website and learn more about fire prevention week by visiting their website at www.nfpa.org.

Want to be a part of history? Observe fire prevention week in your community. It does not have to be complicated. If you do just one thing, you will have helped to make your community safer. Here are some ideas:

Have a proclamation issued in your community. This is a very simple thing to do. The secret is to have it done prior to fire prevention week by your city council, county commission, township trustees or whatever governing body you have in your community. Not only does it make it official in your community, you will receive some media attention and this is a good time for members of your department to attend the meeting where the proclamation is being issued and show their commitment.

Visit the schools in your community. Most of us remember when the firefighters came to our school; it was usually during fire prevention week. You can give talks to classes, display your equipment at the school, or have an assembly about fire safety. At the very least you can have a fire drill with several members of the department present at each exit so the children can see the firefighters as they leave. It is something they will always remember. The secret is to make contact with the school administrator or principal a few weeks in advance and plan your activity.

Hold an open house at your department. Invite the public to stop by and visit your station or stations. Whether your department is large with several stations or small with just one station, open houses are very popular in the community. Have displays set up in the bay, have equipment on display, have firefighters there to conduct tours and answer questions. This is a good time to hold demonstrations on how to handle a pan fire or how to use a fire extinguisher.

Have a door-to-door safety campaign. If you are able, have firefighters go door to door in your community and pass out fire safety literature if you have it available. A word of advice, make sure the media is notified well in advance and publicize your campaign so the community knows about it, and do it during the day - Saturday or Sunday is best. If you hold it in the evening, it is usually dark early in the evening during October and people are apprehensive about answering the door after dark.

Contact local civic groups. You can see if they would give you the opportunity to speak to their group about fire safety. Even if it is not during fire prevention week itself, give the talk anyway. Any time you have the opportunity to get the message out about fire safety, you should use it.

Here are some facts that every firefighter should know that may be asked by the public:

  • Cooking related fires are one of the leading causes of fires in the United States and the leading cause of fire related injuries. Just think about it, people cook everyday, sometimes two or three times in one day. Cooking safety is a hot topic.
  • Careless smoking causes the most fire related deaths and they usually occur between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., the time when people sleep and a fire can go unnoticed.
  • Candles are another leading cause of fires. Candles should never be left burning unattended and they should be set in a non-combustible container. Candles are not a suggested source of light during a power outage.
  • A combustible too close to a heat source is another leading cause of fires, mostly in the cooler months of the year. Space heaters too close to objects that can burn such as sofas and bedding are examples. Also an item stored in the garage against the water heater is another example. Combustible items should be kept at least three feet from any source of heat including fireplaces and wood burning stoves.
  • Extension cords should only be used for a limited time and never with an electric appliance such as space heaters, refrigerators, freezers or other appliances with large motors.
  • Matches and lighters should be kept in a safe place where children can not get to them. Matches and lighters should be treated just like you would treat a gun in the home. They should be kept in a place where they are never accessible to children and locked.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. In the past 30 years, fire fatalities in the United States have been reduced by almost two-thirds thanks to the smoke alarm. The problem is many homes, the place where most fire fatalities occur, are still not protected by a working smoke alarm or it is not functional. Smoke alarms last approximately 10 years and then should be replaced.
  • Families should have a plan on what to do in the event of a fire. Plan two ways of escape from every room of the house and practice the plan by having a fire drill at least two times a year. Everyone in the home should participate in the drill and when doing it, have their eyes closed to simulate limited visibility conditions.

These are just a few ideas of what you can do for fire prevention week.

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Tim Szymanski is the Fire - Public Information Officer for Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. As the Fire-PIO he is in charge of public information, public relations, fire safety education, Citizens Fire Academy and the Las Vegas Fire Corps program. He is also in charge of photo and video services and manages the "Fire Channel" which provides cable educational services to over 50 fire stations of five fire departments in Southern Nevada. He has been in the fire service for 35 years serving in every position from firefighter to fire chief. Nearly 20 of those years have been working with the media. He was the Fire-PIO for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He is a nationally known speaker on media relations and is now teaching public information and media relations at area colleges in Las Vegas and host a seminar each year in Las Vegas for Fire-PIOs. He is also a Fire-Photojournalist, much of his work has been seen on various TV programs and in trade magazines. Please visit Tim's website at www.Fire-Pio.Com. Or contact Tim at info@fire-pio.com.

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