Each year, seven lives are lost due to house fires in the United States. But these tragic losses of life can be prevented by following a few simple fire protection rules.
In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of Fire Prevention Month, how it came to be a critical observance throughout the country, and safety tips you can follow to honor it.
What’s Fire Prevention Month?
Deemed the longest-running public health observance in the United States by the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library, this national holiday is celebrated every October to educate people about the dangers of fires.
How did National Fire Prevention Month get started?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) founded National Fire Prevention Week in 1922. It later became a month-long celebration as an effort to expand the organization’s reach and educational goals.
Before the holiday filled the entire month of October, it took place the week of October 9th. This is because the NFPA wanted to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire that happened almost 50 years earlier.
The Great Chicago Fire
The Great Chicago Fire happened in 1871. The fire is on record as burning between October 8th and October 10th, with a majority of the damage occurring on the 9th. This tragic disaster utterly desolated the Windy City, killing roughly 300 people and rendering over 100,000 homeless. The fire also brought about 200 million dollars in damages and demolished over 17,000 city and residential structures.
How Fire Prevention Month became a national observance
Three years after the NFPA founded this holiday, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it a national observance in 1925. Coolidge stated that the Great Chicago Fire justified a sense of “shame and horror” and could have been prevented if proper fire safety education had been implemented.
Why is October fire safety month?
We now know that this holiday memorializes the Great Chicago Fire that blazed in October of 1871. But October is also a good month to have this holiday since winter months in the United States see a disproportionate surge in home fires, according to NFPA stats. So, this autumn month is when education and awareness around fire safety and prevention are critical.
In the frigid winter months, homeowners across the country turn on their heat sources to keep warm. We also increase the amount we cook in the kitchen, as this is the season of homemade gingerbread cookies, mashed potatoes, and hot soups. Because home fires are most often triggered by heating equipment and cooking, the increase of these appliances in winter time makes the snowy season a high-risk time of year.
The goals of Fire Prevention Month
The primary goal the NFPA has for this month is to raise awareness about the dangers of unprecedented fires. During October, community organizations like fire departments and the Red Cross come together to help ensure families are protected by teaching fire safety and providing fire safety teaching resources.
Supportive organizations leverage this month to remind the United States public of the dire nature of unintended fires and implore everyone to practice protection and prevention techniques.
Fire prevention safety tips
While there are many safety tips out there, we’ve made a rundown of a few vital measures you can take this winter to keep you and your family safe.
Don’t leave cooking unattended
The number one cause of home fires is unattended cooking in the kitchen. Thus, it’s of utmost importance to make sure you don’t leave your stove burners, grills, ovens, or microwaves unattended.
You should also make sure that your heating sources are properly maintained. This includes all of your kitchen equipment but expands to your fireplace, furnace, and any other source used to heat your home as well.
It’s crucial that you don’t leave items near any heating source. This means there shouldn’t be any combustible items near heating elements such as clothes, boxes, furniture, draperies, etc. These have the potential to ignite if placed close to the heating source.
Keep kids and pets out of the kitchen
A great fire safety tip for kids is to make sure they’re aware of the “kid-free zone” in the kitchen. This area should be at least three feet away from all cooking areas in every direction.
This goes for your pets as well. While your little terrier may love sniffing the peanut butter cookies in the oven, she could inadvertently turn something on or knock something over, sparking a flame as a result.
Be careful with candles
Candles are a popular go-to on frosty winter nights. This is why Fire Prevention Month emphasizes using battery-operated candles to enhance your home’s ambiance. However, if you do choose to light a candle, be sure to never leave it unattended and keep it away from combustible elements.
Get fire extinguishers
There’s no doubt that a fire extinguisher can be a lifesaver. So, make sure your home has a fire extinguisher on every level of your house— especially in your kitchen and garage. Also, check the expiration date on every extinguishing agent to ensure it’s not outdated.
Check smoke alarms
A functioning smoke alarm is the first line of defense in the event of a house fire. Smoke detectors work around the clock to detect fires early, buying you and your family time to escape.
As 60% of consumers don’t regularly test their smoke alarms, we must remind you to test your alarms every month. Also, make sure your detectors are interconnected, meaning when one goes off, all others in the house go off at the same time.
Plan an escape route
Did you know that less than half of homeowners across the United States have an escape plan in place? Thus, Fire Prevention Month reminds us to be proactive and not reactive in the event of a fire. Make sure that every household member understands at least two ways to escape from every room in the house. You should also practice fire drills at least two times a year with your family.
What to do in the event of a fire
There’s a lot more to fire safety tips than just “stop, drop, and roll.” Three critical tips that Fire Prevention Month implores us to take in the event of a fire are to stay low to the ground, feel for hot doors, and leave all items and valuables behind.
If you run into smoke while you’re making an escape and can’t find another way to get out, you need to stay as low to the floor as possible. Smoke inhalation is extremely dangerous, and the cleanest air will be about 1 to 2 feet above the floor.
So, get on your belly and wiggle your way out. If you can’t move fast enough lying down, you can crawl on your hands and knees.
An important tip Fire Prevention Month gives is to “Feel first.” Make sure you feel every door before opening it while on your escape route. If the door is hot, it means there’s likely a fire behind it. So, find another door or escape through a window.
Leave everything behind
The only thing you need to worry about in the event of a fire is getting yourself out. Don’t worry about salvaging items or valuables. Fires spread extraordinarily fast, and sparing even just a few extra seconds to grab your phone can save your life.
Celebrate Fire Prevention Month
The NFPA’s 2022 campaign for the national observance this month is “Fire Won’t Wait, Plan Your Escape.” This couldn’t be more true as the average time for safe evacuation once a smoke alarm goes off in a house is only two minutes.
So, practice these prevention tips and help spread awareness of fire protection by encouraging your friends and family to join you in preparation should a disaster strike.