Fire Department readies for Fire Prevention Week

In the fire chief's bunkroom Sept. 27, 2010, Timothy Williams, a fire inspector with the March Air Reserve Base Fire Department, demonstrates the simple but crucial task of testing fire detectors every month. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

In the fire chief's bunkroom Sept. 27, 2010, Timothy Williams, a fire inspector with the March Air Reserve Base Fire Department, demonstrates the simple but crucial task of testing fire detectors every month. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

March Fire Chief Jeffrey Konersman (right) and Assistant Chief of Prevention Harold Sterne (left), prepare for Fire Prevention week by posing for a photo with Smokey, Sparky and two fire engines at the March Air Reserve Base Fire Department, Sept. 27, 2010.  (U.S. Air Force photo/ Timothy Williams)

March Fire Chief Jeffrey Konersman (right) and Assistant Chief of Prevention Harold Sterne (left), prepare for Fire Prevention week by posing for a photo with Smokey, Sparky and two fire engines at the March Air Reserve Base Fire Department, Sept. 27, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Timothy Williams)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Once again, National Fire Prevention Week is upon us. October 3rd through October 9th will commemorate this year's program awareness for people of all ages.

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct.9 falls.

This year's Fire Prevention Week will focus on smoke alarms. The theme is: "A sound you can live with." The campaign is designed to educate people about the importance of smoke alarms and encourages everyone to take the steps necessary to update and maintain their home smoke alarm protection.

Approximately two-thirds of home related fire deaths resulted from home fires with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. These causes are easily preventable. Smoke alarm devices are readily available for sale, affordable and simple to install. Local fire dept agencies are usually willing to assist residents with proper smoke alarm inspection, testing and maintenance procedures.

Guidelines for maintaining your fire detector
- Should have minimum number of one per floor, with each installed near ceiling level
- Tested monthly and battery replaced semi-annually (some manufacturers state annually)
- If smoke alarm is hard-wired to electrical current, remember battery backup that may be included in unit
- Shelf life is only up to 10 years in most models

By no means is doing all we can to maintain a fire-safe residence limited to properly working smoke alarms. Knowing the most efficient way out of your residence in case of fire or other emergency is important as well. Having a sound escape plan will greatly reduce fire deaths and protect you and your family's safety if a fire occurs. According to the U.S. Fire Administration's website, more than 3,500 Americans die each year in fires, and approximately 20,000 are injured.

Deaths resulting from failed emergency escapes are particularly avoidable and tragic.

Emergency escape tips
- Practice escaping from each room in the house
- If equipped with security bars, ensure quick release devices are installed
- Designate a meeting place outside the house, take attendance/accountability

Fire extinguishers are also a vital component in the home fire safety scheme of things. The use of a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life and property saving tool.

Fire extinguisher Q + A
What type of fire extinguisher do I need?
For placement in a common residence, a class ABC portable fire extinguisher will suffice. It covers all types of fires that would normally occur in a residence. Ordinary combustibles, flammable liquid/vapor, and electrical.

Where should I place a portable fire extinguisher? As a minimum, the kitchen and the garage should be considered. The USFA website states 30% of all residence fires are started in the kitchen. Of those fires, 90% are from cooking. Whether in close attendance or unattended. For that reason, mounting a fire extinguisher in the kitchen is of utmost importance. The garage has many hazards to recognize. Many major appliances such as furnaces, water boilers, washers and dryers may be found there. Also, the presence of fuel used for lawn mowers, weed eaters, blowers, chain saws, and parked vehicles.

How long is my portable fire extinguisher serviceable? How would I properly dispose of it? Typically disposable ABC fire extinguishers are good for 12 years. However, follow all manufacturers' instructions that come with fire extinguisher for official usage. Dry chemical fire extinguishers cannot be thrown out with the trash. Contact your local fire dept agency for further information.

In conclusion, you take pride in your residence. It's beautiful, comfortable and a place special memories are made. Ensure it stays that way. Total home maintenance prevents fires, protects homes and saves lives!

Paragraph two was reproduced from NFPA's Fire Prevention Week website, © NFPA 2010.