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It’s National Fire Prevention Week!

October 8, 2012

Fire Prevention Week started as a way to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The conflagration burned approximately 3.3 square miles of Chicago, Illinois but contrary to popular belief wasn’t started by Mrs. O’Leary and her cow (although it is thought to have started in or behind a barn on the O’Leary property!). What many people also don’t realize is that the Great Chicago Fire was actually not the largest fire that day, although it may be the best known. The Peshtigo fire, a forest fire in Northern Wisconsin, burned 16 towns and over 1.2 million acres before it finally went out…and it started on the same day in 1871!

On the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Fire, it was decided that Fire Prevention Week should be used as a way to remind the public about how important fire prevention really is. While building codes, cities, and the fire services have come a long way in both preventing and fighting fires, it is us in the general public who can always take a few simple steps to help protect ourselves.

The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Have Two Ways Out.” Here at the WSRB Seattle office, we had our annual fire drill this last week, discussed the multiple ways out of our building and then, like every year, we all shuttled ourselves down the stairwells with our warm cups of coffee and purses, plugged our ears when we went by the screeching fire alarm, and then waited in line when it was over to get an elevator back upstairs so we could get back to our work. In the event of a real fire, we won’t have time to grab our purses, will probably be too panicked to notice how deafening the fire alarm is, and probably won’t have our warm coffee.  But the point is that because we’ve practiced exiting the building so many times, knowing what to do will be more automatic.  One of the things that strikes me every year is hearing at least one of our new employees get to the loading dock at the bottom of the stairs say, “Now where do we go?”

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost three-quarters of Americans have an escape plan from their homes, but less than half have actually practiced it. In fact, only 23% of homes have actually developed and practiced their escape plan!  And I must admit, even as a Field Representative who looks at buildings and thinks about fire all day long, I fall into the 77% who knows how to get out of my home, but I haven’t actually practiced it.

So how does a family begin to develop a safety plan? A good starting place is discussing how to have two ways out of every room. The NFPA recommends the following to help you and your children be prepared in the event of a home fire:

–          Discuss with your children what exits they have from their bedrooms and play rooms (and every room!).

–          Remind children to get low, and crawl; not only does smoke tend to rise, but temperatures at the ceiling can reach almost 1,000 degrees in 5 minutes (check out the Marble Mountain Sprinkler Burn video).

–          Where will your family meet in the event of a fire? Is it the mailbox, a flag pole, or a driveway? Know where you’ll go and how you will get there.

–          Practice, practice, practice!

–          Download and print this NFPA fact sheet and go over it with your children twice a year!

Learn more about fire safety and emergency preparedness.

Article by: Kristen Skinner

Sources: NFPA, Great Chicago Fire Info

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