By Amy Bollen, Safe Kids Southwest Florida
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began Oct. 8 but continued into and did most of its damage Oct. 9, 1871. Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls.
This year, the theme is “Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month.” We encourage all to check the smoke alarms at home and make sure they are working and that their batteries have been changed in the past year. Plus, smoke alarms expire after 10 years. If your smoke alarm is older than 10 years, replace it right away.
Planning and practicing a home fire escape plan is essential in helping families know what to do in case of a real fire.
» Make sure your home has working smoke alarms and everyone knows the sounds it makes.
» With your family, make an escape map of your home. Plan two ways out of every room, typically a door or a window, and pick an outside meeting place.
» Ask children to show you that they can open their own windows; some window locks are hard to move and windows can be heavy.
» Test smoke alarms at night when children are sleeping to see if they are awakened by the sound and whether they react correctly in a sleepy state.
» Remind everyone they need to crawl on their hands and knees when there is smoke and to test doors with the back of their hands before opening them.
» Close all doors on the way out of the house and, in a real fire only, call 9-1-1 from outside.
The best way to prevent fires in your home is to make fire safety part of your family’s daily life.
— Amy Bollen is the public education specialist for the South Trail Fire Protection and Rescue Service District and a member of Safe Kids. Safe Kids is a nonprofit coalition of agencies and organizations dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries.
FREE SMOKE ALARMS
Many local fire departments offer free battery-powered smoke alarms, free smoke alarm installations and free batteries. If you are in need of a smoke alarm or need help installing one, call your local fire department and ask if they offer this service. If you live in the South Trail Fire Protection and Rescue Service District, you can stop by any of the fire stations for a free smoke alarm or battery, or if you need help with an installation, call 936-5281 to set an appointment.
FIRE SAFETY TRIVIA
Q: What kind of smoke alarm works best?
A: The photoelectric and ionization combination smoke alarm is best. Photoelectric is generally more responsive to smoldering fires and ionization is generally more responsive to flaming fire. Having both technologies
Q: When should you replace a smoke alarm?
A: All smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and those that are hard-wired alarms, should be replaced when they are 10 years old.
Q: What rooms should you not install smoke alarms in?
A: Kitchens and bathrooms
Q: What does it mean when your smoke alarm “chirps”?
A: The “chirping” noise is a warning that the battery is low, replace (not disable) the battery right away.
Q: How often should you test your smoke alarms to be sure that they are working?
A:Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.
Q: When should you change the batteries in all of your smoke alarms?
A:Batteries should be changed at least once a year, before the “chirping” happens.
Fire Prevention Week
In a fire, seconds count. Seconds can mean the difference between residents of our community escaping safely from a fire or having their lives end in tragedy.
That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme: “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” is so important. It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan. Here’s this year’s key campaign messages:
- Draw a map of your home (PDF) with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
- Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.