November 2023 - Preparation Is Key to Fire Prevention
October brings to mind football, fresh apple cider, hayrides and, of course, fire safety. That’s because the second week of this month traditionally has been designated Fire Prevention Week. But why October?
Back in 1922, the National Fire Prevention Association began promoting Fire Prevention Week, choosing the second week of October in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. That blaze erupted on October 8, burned over 2,000 acres of land, destroyed 17,400 structures, left 100,000 people homeless and claimed more than 250 lives.
Today, house fires continue to bring devastation. The U.S. Fire Association reported that in 2021, house fires resulted in 11,400 injuries and 2,840 civilian fatalities, adding that, on average, there is one fire-related death every three hours in the U.S. The most likely victims – older adults.
Cooking, the theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week (10/8-14), is the second most common cause of house fires after smoking. Whether you’re cooking indoors or out, these tips can help you avoid having your food—and everything else—go up in flames:
- Never leave stoves or grills unattended when in use.
- Keep flammable materials away from burners and open flames.
- Make sure griddles, toasters, etc. are cool before storing them.
- Place outdoor grills several feet away from exterior walls.
- Establish a child-safe zone away from stoves, grills, hot pots and pans.
- Keep unsupervised pets out of the kitchen—they can jump up and inadvertently turn on the burners.
Of course, accidents can still happen. Small grease fires can be quickly extinguished by covering the flames with a metal lid or sprinkling them with salt or baking soda. Never use water, though, as it can cause the grease to explode and the flames to spread. Leave larger fires to trained professionals.
If you don’t already have a fire safety plan, this month is a good time to create one. Plan escape routes, set meeting places for family members, practice fire drills, and stress the importance of saving lives, not things, in a real fire. After all, when you have your family together safely, you have everything.