The 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week kicks off Monday, Oct. 9, 2022.
Fire Prevention Week has been sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) since 1922 and has been a weekly nationwide observance since President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed a Fire Prevention Week in 1925.
Even before then, in 1920, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Oct. 9 to be the first Fire Prevention Day, calling on the public to learn more about the risks of deadly fires and commemorating the thousands who had lost their lives to these tragedies.
“During Fire Prevention Week, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of a fire. Firefighters provide lifesaving public education to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires,” says the NFPA.
The White House says that in the past year, “our Nation has suffered some of its deadliest fires in recent history. Americans have lost their homes and their businesses. Thousands have tragically lost their lives.”
President Joe Biden, in his Fire Prevention Week proclamation, said that with “every home, school, and business destroyed in a fire, precious memories are lost, livelihoods are jeopardized, and dreams are crushed. This National Fire Prevention Week, let us reflect on the importance of remaining vigilant and learning more about fire safety.”
The Importance of Oct. 9 for Fire Prevention Week
Oct. 9 is the start of Fire Prevention Week each year and that date was not selected randomly.
“Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage,” says the NFPA.
The Great Chicago Fire resulted in:
- More than 250 killed
- Left 100,000 homeless
- Destroyed 17,400 structures
- Burned more than 2,000 acres of land
2022 Fire Prevention Week Campaign: Plan Your Escape
The 2022 Fire Prevention Week campaign theme is “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”
“Today’s homes burn faster than ever. You may have as little as two minutes (or even less time) to safely escape a home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Your ability to get out of a home during a fire depends on early warning from smoke alarms and advance planning,” says the NFPA.
The NFPA reminds everyone to plan and practice for a home fire escape.
“Everyone needs to be prepared in advance, so that they know what to do when the smoke alarm sounds. Given that every home is different, every home fire escape plan will also be different,” says the NFPA. “Have a plan for everyone in the home. Children, older adults, and people with disabilities may need assistance to wake up and get out. Make sure that someone will help them!”
Smoke Alarms Can Sense Smoke Well Before You Can
The NFPA says that smoke alarms can sense smoke well before you can, alerting you to danger.
“Smoke alarms need to be in every bedroom, outside of the sleeping areas (like a hallway), and on each level (including the basement) of your home. Do not put smoke alarms in your kitchen or bathrooms,” says the NFPA.
Smoke alarm tips include:
- Choose an alarm that is listed with a testing laboratory, meaning it has met certain standards for protection.
- For best protection, use combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are interconnected throughout the home.
- These alarms can be installed by a qualified electrician, so that when one sounds, they all sound.
“In a fire, mere seconds can mean the difference between a safe escape and a tragedy. Fire safety education isn’t just for school children. Teenagers, adults, and the elderly are also at risk in fires, making it important for every member of the community to take some time every October during Fire Prevention Week to make sure they understand how to stay safe in case of a fire,” says the NFPA.
Office and Store Fires Can Devastate Communities
The U.S. Fire Administration – the federal agency for fire data collection, public fire education, fire research and fire service training – says that a fire in an office or store can be devastating to a community.
“In addition to potential deaths and property loss, people may lose their jobs and the community may lose a vital service provided by the business,” says the U.S. Fire Administration.
There were 18,700 office and store fires in the United States in 2019 that caused $744 million in direct property damage.
Leading causes of office and store fires in 2019, according to the U.S. Fire Administration:
- Cooking: 32.3 percent
- Electrical malfunction: 10.9 percent
- Heating: 8.0 percent
- Other unintentional, careless: 7.9 percent
- Appliances: 7.7 percent
“Modern building design and fire codes protect most offices and stores from fires,” says the U.S. Fire Administration. “However, there are important fire safety practices that employees and employers should follow to help prevent workplace fires, keep workers safe and keep offices and stores open.”
Workplace Fire Safety Tips
Many causes of office and store fires are the same as those for home fires with prevention and escape planning recommendations very similar.
Fire safety tips for employees include:
- Check for damaged or overloaded electrical outlets, cords, and cables.
- Keep anything that can burn away from electrical equipment.
- Never leave portable heating devices unattended.
- Keep workspace and equipment clean, dry, and well ventilated.
- Plan and practice multiple escape routes in case one is blocked.
- Ensure windows can be opened and screens can be removed.
- Remove any obstacles from exits.
Fire safety tips for employers include:
- Make sure smoke alarms and fire sprinklers are properly installed and working.
- Post clear fire escape plans on every level of a building.
- Teach employees about exit locations, escape routes, and fire protection equipment.
- Check the condition of fire ladders and escapes.
- Conduct regular emergency drills.
What If There is a Fire in the Building …
The U.S. Fire Administration says that if there is a fire, building workers should:
- Call 911.
- Notify co-workers of the fire.
- Never use the elevator.
- Walk, don’t run, down the stairs
If workers are not able to evacuate the building in the event of fire, they should:
- Seal door gaps with jackets.
- Wait at the window.
- Remain calm.