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Once each year comes Fire Prevention Week. It is always the week of Oct. 9, the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. It was on Oct. 9, 1871, when a conflagration occurred in the United States, now known as the Great Chicago Fire. It lasted for 27 hours, killed more than 250 people, left more than 100,000 people homeless and destroyed nearly 18,000 buildings. Although the exact cause of the fire has never been determined, one popular legend blames Mrs. Catherine O’Leary’s cow for the blaze after it allegedly kicked over a lantern and started a barn on fire. Regardless of how it started, the fire nearly destroyed Chicago. Firefighters and equipment from as far as New York City responded.
In 1911, on the 40th anniversary, fire officials from across the country sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day, advocating an annual observance about fire safety and education. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation. Since 1922, National Fire Prevention Week has been observed Sunday through Saturday of the week in which Oct. 9 falls. In addition, the President of the United States has proclaimed National Fire Prevention Week every year since 1925.
“Have 2 Ways Out” for 2012
Fire Prevention Week is the longest-running public safety awareness campaign in U.S. history. For most of those years, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has spearheaded Fire Prevention Week with a theme and a poster. This year, Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 7-13. The theme this year is “Have 2 Ways Out” which points out the importance of having two ways out of every room. The NFPA has an excellent website with information and materials available to promote Fire Prevention Week in your community; www.fpw.org.
Regardless of whether you serve in a volunteer, combination or career department, every department should participate in Fire Prevention Week. A common problem experienced by departments is that Fire Prevention Week arrives and they are not ready for it. The time to get ready is now.
I usually start working on Fire Prevention Week in July. No matter what you plan to do, you need adequate time to prepare. Take ordering materials, for example. If you use standard shipping to save money and you want your materials at least two weeks in advance, I suggest you order your materials no later than Sept. 15. You can get overnight shipping, which costs much more, but I would rather order early and use the money I would spend on overnight shipping for extra Fire Prevention Week materials.
Many departments want their mayor, city council or county commission to issue a Fire Prevention Week proclamation. In most cases, elected officials have an agenda for each meeting and it is usually made two weeks in advance. It is not unusual to ask to be placed on the agenda weeks, if not months in advance. I encourage you to ask to be placed on the agenda no later than August. You also must prepare the proclamation to be used.
Working with the media is a good way to promote Fire Prevention Week. Contact your local media and ask if they would be interested in covering your Fire Prevention Week activities. Whether it is an article in the local newspaper, on a community news website or a TV news story, you need adequate time to prepare it. I recommend that you meet with your local media no later than Sept. 1.
Here are some activities you can do for Fire Prevention Week. Again, you need adequate lead time to prepare and make your event a success:
• Fire station open house – Sometime during Fire Prevention Week, show off fire stations with tours and demonstrations. Start spreading the word no later than Sept. 1.
• Visit schools, civic groups and other community organizations – Whether you show off your fire apparatus or pass out plastic fire helmets or stickers, show them what you have. Schedule a fire drill in the school while you are there. Again, you will need adequate lead time with school officials for scheduling. It is best to contact the school as soon as possible once they return from summer vacation.