An annual event intended to help remind us of the importance of fire safety is upon us once again. This year’s Fire Prevention Week will take place next week from October 9 to 15. It’s a special year this time around – the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week. To commemorate the event, the Kemptville Fire Station will have an Open House on Wednesday, October 12 from 6-8 pm.
The now century-old Fire Prevention Week was created in 1922 as an expansion of an annual Fire Prevention Day that had been started three years prior. These steps were taken at the urge of the National Fire Protection Association, which hopes for a common annual fire prevention event with cooperation from the governments of both the USA and Canada. The Fire Prevention Week tradition has been going strong ever since, with the not-for-profit NFPA choosing the theme for each year.
The theme this year is “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape.” House fires can escalate quickly, and probably much more quickly than most people anticipate. The NFPA estimates that in a house fire, occupants may have two minutes or less to escape after hearing the smoke alarm. This means that the escape itself is all the occupants are likely to have time for, not figuring out how and where to escape. It is therefore prudent to plan an escape route and alternate route ahead of time.
Making a fire escape plan takes time, but is well worth it. First, figure out two escape routes for every room, in case the primary exit is blocked. For rooms on upper floors, this may mean installing extra safety equipment, such as escape ladders. Second, practice staying low while moving toward exits, in order to avoid the smoke. Finally, plan a meeting spot a safe distance away from your home. It is best to practice fire evacuation at home regularly – about twice per year is a good benchmark.
Families with children should take extra steps when it comes to fire safety. A house fire is a scary event, so knowing what to expect and having a plan in place can help children get out safely. For young children (around age six or younger), part of your escape plan should include designating adults to help these children escape, as they may be too frightened or confused to move on their own. For older children, practicing how to escape could very well save their lives one day. Children should be taught never to re-enter a burning building under any circumstances. It is also a good idea to remind children that if they become trapped in a burning building, a firefighter dressed in full gear may come to rescue them. A fully equipped firefighter can look like a monster to a child who is already frightened in a building filled with smoke and flames, so it is wise to get them used to what a firefighter looks like when wearing safety gear, including a respirator.
Other important safety tips are beneficial to run through as a family as well. These include using the back of one’s hand to check if a door is hot before opening it, and the familiar “stop, drop, and roll” technique if clothing is on fire. Families should also get in the habit of leaving the house any time a smoke detector sounds. Bad habits form quickly, so failing to exit when the cause of the alarm is assumed to be false could end up being deadly in the future.
This year’s important Fire Prevention Week theme of planning your escape is particularly important because it has been proven that newer homes tend to burn faster than older homes. This is because of the lower quality materials used in modern homes, the often synthetic material with which furniture is constructed, and the open concept design of many homes which allows excess air flow.
For more information on fire prevention and Fire Prevention Week, visit the website of the National Fire Protection Association at https://www.nfpa.org/.