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October marks the beginning of Fire Prevention Month, I hear cheering, don’t you?!

In schools, daycares, and many communities, information will be shared to bring awareness about preventing a fire and in the event of a fire, what you should do.  In the public sector we look at fire events a little different than in a residential setting.  The educational aspects are no less important and the more you know, the better off you’ll be.  While fire prevention month is only one month a year and coincides with fire prevention week, prevention itself is something we must commit to throughout the year!

In schools, daycares and within the community, the emphasis is traditionally geared toward children and at-risk individuals, like the elderly and disabled.  The National Fire Protection Association chose Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives as their campaign theme.  Estimates indicate that 5 million US homes are without smoke alarms.  Add to that the instances of smoke alarms where batteries are dead or have been removed.  What you have are real lives saved, properties perhaps saved or reduced damages.  Modern home building materials, as well as materials used in modern furniture, have actually reduced the amount of time you have to escape to as little as 3 minutes (per NFPA.org).  When you consider that you may have small children to help, a disabled person to assist, or are sleeping when that alarm is first sounding, 3 minutes is not much time.  In the home, the main sources of fire events are from cooking, smoking, and heating according to NFPA.org.  It makes sense that cooking is #1, but do you know what to do in a cooking fire flare-up?  Would you throw water on the fire?  Do you have an extinguisher?  There are many videos that show you the right way to address a fire on your range (which accounts for 57% of cooking fires per NFPA.org), starting with never putting water on it or trying to move the pot or pan off the range.  With an extinguisher on hand, turn off the appliance, and if safe use a cookie sheet and place that on top of the pot or pan.  Again information is key.  Here are some tips for home safety direct from NFPA.org for this October Fire Prevention Month:

  • Install Smoke Alarms Inside and Outside Sleeping Areas (bedrooms, halls); On Every Level, Including Basement & Attic
  • Have an Escape Plan with 2 Exits in Each Room, Have a Fire Ladder That Can Be Put Into a Window When Needed in Upper Levels
  • Practice Your Escape Plan, Including a Meeting Place Outside (like a mailbox)
  • Test Smoke Alarms Monthly
  • Replace Smoke Alarms at 10 Years Age
  • Use Alarms With Strobes or Bed Shakers for Vision-Impaired or Deaf
  • Keep Portable Heaters and Gas Heaters No Less Than 3 Feet From Flammables (bedding, clothing, mattresses, furniture)
  • Get Out and Stay Out During Fire Events
  • Upon Exit, Close Doors Behind You, If Heavy Smoke Get Low and Go

Fire prevention and protection in non-residential facilities is regulated through a standard or a code, like mechanical code, life safety code and even health code.  Often insurers will also step in to ensure that businesses are adhering to safe policies which include preventative maintenance to existing protection devices.  Protection inside commercial buildings, schools, industrial, retail and restaurants depends on the intended use of the facility.  Certain installations are common, such as exit and emergency lights, identifiable paths of egress (exit), sprinklers, and of course extinguishers.  In restaurants, there will be devices specific to cooking or serving soda from a machine, such as carbon dioxide detectors, suppression systems with pull stations for the cooking appliances, heat detectors and special k-class extinguishers to be used on fire events related to cooking (refer to NFPA).  Industrial applications will include special extinguishers for the specific chemistry they are using in their processes, marine vessels, aerospace and many specialized industries will also have specific equipment to address the processes they use.  Tips for businesses, include:

  • Develop a Program For Ongoing Preventative Maintenance, Hire Reputable Vendors That Incorporate Reminder of Service
  • Train Employees, Incorporate Ongoing Training and Reminders, and Don’t Neglect to Train New Employees Right Away
  • Conduct Regular Safety Walk Throughs or Add Fire Prevention Items to Existing Walk Throughs
  • Correct Items in a Timely Manner and Consult with Professionals About Standards/Code Requirements, Options and Recommendations
  • Clearly Label Equipment, Ensure Paths of Egress Are Clearly Defined and Define Expectations for Fire Events and Other Events

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is lauded in lore.  There are stories about a cow, gangsters and lightning storms.  The Great Chicago Fire that started on October 8th, 1871 wasn’t even the biggest fire that day, a few 100 miles away from Chicago, the Peshtigo fire was burning, and as of 2018 was still considered one of the most devastating forest fire in American history.  The Peshtigo fire destroyed 16 towns, taking 1,152 lives and claiming 1.2 million acres of land.  The Great Chicago Fire left 100,000 homeless and destroyed some of the newest and most elaborate buildings and high-rises of that time.  In 1920 President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, the longest running public health and safety observance in the US.  Since the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago and Peshtigo Fires it was decided by what would become the International Fire Marshals Association, that Fire Prevention Month be used to educate and inform the public about fire prevention instead of acknowledging as traditional holidays with festivities.   Fire grows and sacrifices none of itself to do so, making it a considerable public safety challenge for individuals, businesses and fire safety professionals.  We encourage you to visit www.FPW.org and www.NFPA.org as resources for tips and information you can use in your own home, including Sparky the Fire Dog that caters specifically to educating learning disabled and children of most ages.  And when you need fire prevention services, Keep Calm and Call Averus!

Facts provided by www.NFPA.org

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