Earlier this year, my very favorite waterfront restaurant here in the Northwest—the home of the most wonderful onion rings in all history—burned to the ground. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the resulting loss of materials, business, and jobs had our whole community on edge for several weeks.
In 2011, fires caused 3,005 civilian deaths, 17,500 civilian injuries, and $9.7 billion in property damage (see the report http://www.nfpa.org/research/fire-statistics/the-us-fire-problem). That’s the kind of statistic the National Fire Protection Administration wants you to hear about this week. Every year since 1922, the week including October 9th has been designated National Fire Prevention Week. The goal of this special week in October is to educate the public on fire safety and prevention practices.
History of National Fire Prevention Week
Do you remember learning this poem in elementary school?
Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Old Mother Leary left the lantern in the shed
And when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said,
“I’ll bet they’ll be commemorating this with a national week of observance for years!”
You didn’t learn that version? Hmmm. The poem refers to the Great Chicago Fire of October 8-9th, 1871, which National Fire Prevention Week commemorates. The Chicago fire killed more than 250 people and 17,400 structures across its 2,000 acre swath. While it was far from the most destructive conflagration that year (believe it or not), it occupies the most vivid place in cultural memory, which is why its anniversary has become such a rally point.
Purpose of National Fire Prevention Week
When the Fire Marshal’s Association of North America persuaded the president of the United States to designate a formal observance, 40 years after the Chicago fire, it was determined that the week should not be one of celebration, but one of education and progress. National Fire Prevention week always has a stated theme, and in current years, the focus has been in specific prevention practices—like 2010’s concentration on smoke alarms, or last year’s theme, “Have 2 Ways Out.”
This year’s theme, “Prevent Kitchen Fires,” addresses the number one cause of home fires and civilian fire deaths in the U.S. Look for another post on kitchen fire safety coming up later this week.
Fire Prevention Resources
NFPA’s website is a treasure trove of fire safety resources and information, and during this week, they are gearing everything toward public education. I especially appreciate how they’ve categorized their information for target groups: those in the fire service, kids and families, and educators. Considering you probably fall into one of the last two groups, here’s a quick overview of what you might find:
For kids and families
- A dedicated site for kids, featuring the NFPA’s mascot, Sparky the Dog
- Kid-friendly activities and print-outs
- Age-appropriate safety strategies
- Home safety checklist
- Templates for an escape plan, safety information card, etc.
- Info sheets and checklists to send home
- Ready-made fire prevention lesson plans
- Fire safety-themed classroom activities
- Apps and e-books to teach fire safety
The site’s safety tips and extensive fire prevention information are a crucial resource for everyone, whether or not you live or work with children. So, to kick off National Fire Prevention Week, instead of lighting up the grill (yikes!), take the NFPA’s fire safety quiz. I got 7 out of 10. Can you beat my score?