Fire Prevention Week is a good reminder
On July 14, 2021, flames and smoke engulfed a Platte County home in the 7200 block of N. Avalon Street, Kansas City.
Firefighters responding to the 9-1-1 call observed a child on the floor with a red torch lighter. Ultimately, three children died in the morning blaze and another child was treated at the hospital. While authorities say methamphetamine was found inside the residence, bomb and arson investigators say they found no evidence it was being produced inside the occupied dwelling.
A year later the effects of that house fire still haunt members of the community. Tragedies like this house fire reinforce the critical importance of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and its efforts to promote fire safety education for children and adults.
A layperson may view Fire Prevention Week as another calendar week to keep in mind, but it is a week when people gain a crucial awareness of life-saving devices, fire precautions in daily life, and fire safety messages from firefighters in the community.
This year’s campaign, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape,” focuses on the importance of having a fire escape plan in case a fire erupts inside the home or building where members of the household occupy. This year, Fire Prevention Week takes place Oct. 9-15, but this year the NFPA is also officially observing the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week, the nation’s longest-running public health observance on record.
“This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign capitalizes on its milestone anniversary, celebrating all we’ve accomplished in reducing the public’s risk to fire over the past hundred years,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of the NFPA Outreach and Advocacy division. “At the same time, the theme, ‘Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape,’ addresses challenges that remain.”
Today’s house fires have proven to be more deadly than 40 years ago. Fire can triple in size about every two minutes, largely because of flammable oil-based products and synthetic material inside the home. When particular modern materials are heated, everything in the room hits its ignition temperature and ignites. This is known as a flashover.
“Today’s homes burn faster and hotter than they used to, minimizing the amount of time they have to escape safely,” said Carli. “In a typical home fire, you may have as little as two minutes to get out from the time the smoke alarm sounds.”
In striving for a quick exit, firefighters say household members need to develop and practice an escape plan.
Firefighters say even though people feel safest inside their homes, it’s actually where a deadly fire is most likely to happen. According to the NFPA, 74 percent of fire deaths occur in homes, and if one ignites it’s more likely to be serious.
The local Riverside Fire Department is taking part in Fire Prevention Week and celebrating 100 years of fire prevention, hosting a public awareness event outside the Riverside Fire Station. Along with stressing the importance of taking appropriate fire safety precautions, Keith Payne, assistant fire chief and fire marshall, also championed the use of creating a fire escape plan with all members of the household.
“Close your bedroom door when heading to bed,” said Payne. “Studies have shown keeping your door shut can block a lot of fire and keep you safer.”
In addition to all the home fire safety tips, Payne wants to teach children not to hide. By practicing what to do when a fire alarm sounds, children are more prepared to get out and away from the house, said Payne.
Certainly, the protective gear worn by firefighters who are responding to a house fire can be alarming to a child. Local firefighters displayed their 80 lbs. of bunker gear and fire engine equipment to prevent children from being unexpectedly startled.
Today, the Riverside Fire Department responds to fewer fire emergencies and many more medical calls. This is certainly due to all the precautionary measures, such as the implementation and enforcement of codes. A dozen full-time firefighters and 20 part-time firefighters are employed by the municipality.
To a large extent, the main goal of any fire department, as well as the NFPA, is to prevent house fires from occurring in the first place.
The five major messages behind this year’s campaign are to:
1) Make an escape plan that meets the needs of each and every family member, including those with sensory or physical disabilities
2) Smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of the home.
3) Make sure all family members know at least two ways out of every room. In addition, make sure all doors and windows open easily.
4) Have a meeting place outside of the home where everyone can meet that is located a safe distance from the home.
5) Practice your fire drill at least twice a year, once during the day and once at night.
Each year, the NFPA promotes potential lifesaving messages that stress the importance of protecting oneself and their loved ones from house fires.