The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has chosen October as Fire Prevention Month and and this year National Fire Prevention Week begins October 9th. These designations commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which started on October 9, 1871, killing about 300 people, leaving 100,000 homeless and destroying more than 17,000 structures.
Fires happen – especially in large urban areas. According to statistics gathered by the NFPA, your household currently has a 1 in 4 chance of having a home fire large enough to be reported to a fire department during an average lifetime – and most of these fires occur in the Fall and Winter months. Statistically, more residential fires occur on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year. Last year, at the national level, there were a few more fires than the year before. So there is still much work to be done in terms of fire prevention.
But the best news since the beginning of the Fire Safety initiatives is that every year deaths from fires of all kinds have been reduced. Each generation has had a lower risk of dying in fire than the previous generation. 90 years ago, your chances of dying in a fire in the U.S. would have been about 12 times what they are today. Last year, the Fire Department of Philadelphia recorded a twenty-three percent (23%) reduction in fire fatalities, the lowest loss of life by fire in Philadelphia history.
So, what can we attribute these positive changes to? Education!
More people are now aware of the one key thing they can do to survive a fire: install smoke alarms. In 70 percent (70%) of the fire fatalities that did occur last year in Philadelphia, the smoke alarms and/or sprinkler systems weren’t working. Smoke alarms are so effective in saving lives that many municipalities now have programs for people to obtain smoke alarms if they cannot afford to purchase them. (For people living in Philadelphia who cannot afford to buy a smoke alarm the hotline at 215-686-1176 will help them to obtain one at no cost.)
What you may not know is that in addition to installing smoke alarms on every floor of your home and having an escape plan, there is one additional step to take to protect yourself and your loved ones from death by fire: Close your bedroom door while sleeping!
The City of Philadelphia Freedom from Fire Website provides these additional tips to avoid death by fire:
• Once they are installed, make sure to test your smoke alarms weekly and change the batteries twice a year when you change our clocks for day light savings time
• Replace smoke alarms every ten years
• When you plan and practice your home fire drill, include a family meeting place in the plan
• If the smoke alarm sounds, make sure you feel the closed doors for heat. IF THE DOOR IS HOT DO NO OPEN THE DOOR – FIND A SECOND WAY OUT
• Smoke kills! Make sure you stay low when exiting the building since smoke rises
• IF A FIRE STRIKES LEAVE QUICKLY! FIRE IS VERY FAST – GET OUT AND STAY OUT NEVER GO BACK INTO A BURNING BUILDING
By following these tips, you and your loved ones may survive in good health if the unthinkable should happen!