As a Construction Official, the safety of my family, friends, and co-workers is always on my mind. Since joining USA Architects, I annually promote Fire Prevention Week. But this year, life safety and fire prevention is close to my heart. One recent morning a lamp malfunctioned in a bay window at my Aunt’s house. She was not home. A neighbor spotted the fire almost immediately, called the Fire Department, and grabbed a garden hose. The good news is the fire was out within seconds of the Fire Department arriving, the bad news is that the damage was done. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house. If my Aunt had been home, she would have probably been in the shower, which is on the same level as the fire. As she walked out of the bathroom upon hearing the smoke alarm, she would have been hit with thick black smoke with temperatures of 100 degrees at floor level and 600 degrees at face level! Inhaling the air can scorch your lungs and the heat can melt clothes to your skin. My Aunt was very fortunate. Her kitchen cabinets, on the other side of her house, however, were melted and everything was a shade of grey. She is displaced from her home for 6 months in order for repairs to be completed.
What is Fire Prevention Week? Fire Prevention Week started in 1922 in memory of one of the most historic and horrific fires in history. On October 8th & 9th 1871, the Great Chicago Fire killed 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, and burned over 2,000 acres to the ground. Many have blamed the fire on a cow…yes, a single cow…while some blame it on boys smoking, an irate neighbor, and even a meteorite!
This year’s theme is Smoke Alarms. We already know what they do… they ring when you burn the toast! Unless the alarm is hard-wired to a burglar alarm, it is all too easy to pull the batteries out and walk away. (Fact: Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected alarms). Partly due to this mentality, smoke detector installation and maintenance is not a new topic of Fire Prevention Week. In the history of Fire Prevention Week, smoke detectors were the center of attention 7 times to date with catchy themes such as “Where There's Smoke, There Should Be a Smoke Alarm”, “Test Your Detector - It's Sound Advice!” and “Let's Hear It For Fire Safety: Test Your Detectors!”.
Seriously, each year nearly 3,000 people die in U.S. home fires. Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires and injuries. Electrical problems are #2. Smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a reported fire IN HALF. These facts are the reason it is so important to regularly test and replace your existing smoke detectors. Websites such as the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) provide a great deal of information on smoke alarms along with other ways to prevent fires. Both pages have videos, links and printable fact sheets… including safety of decorative electrical appliances (I should print this one for my Aunt!). These sites also have interactive sections to help children understand the importance of fire protection.
Would you please join me on spreading the word about Fire Prevention Week?
Some information reproduced from NFPA's Fire Prevention Week Web site, www.firepreventionweek.org. ©2010 NFPA.
NFPA's Fire Prevention Week site ( http://www.firepreventionweek.org)
U.S. Fire Administration, 16825 S. Seton Ave., Emmitsburg, MD 21727