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Fire Prevention Week

Posted on October 6, 2010 by Acting U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines

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I am always pleased when this time of year rolls around and together we can focus on fire prevention. Once again, around the country fire departments, schools, and community organizations will host a variety of events to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire that occurred on October 9th, 1871. Thinking back on Fire Prevention Week over the course of my lifetime, all of the themes have been wonderfully designed and implemented by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to emphasize fire prevention and how to survive if fire occurs. This year, the official theme is Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With.

The emphasis on smoke alarms should remind everyone that they are in the first line of defense when a fire occurs. Although most of us have heard the message many times before, apparently there are those who haven't heard it or who continue to ignore it. Approximately two-thirds of the home fire deaths that occur happen in homes without a smoke alarm or without a working smoke alarm. In combination with a well thought out home escape plan and residential sprinklers, smoke alarms can help keep us and our families from contributing to the approximately 3,000 deaths that occur each year in home fires. A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm will cut your chance of dying in a home fire by 50%. When both smoke alarms and fire sprinklers are present in a home, the risk of dying in a fire is reduced by 82% when compared to a residence without either. I think we have to remember one fundamental point: although constant improvements are being looked at to refine and improve the ability of smoke alarms to warn us when fire occurs, a working smoke alarm can save lives.

Getting back to Fire Prevention Week, I think it is great to hear about and participate in fire prevention activities during the week set aside to focus on prevention. Wouldn't it be even better if fire organizations, and everyone for that matter, worked as hard on prevention education, engineering, and enforcement 365 days a year? We could make a significant impact on the many losses, both economic and life altering, which occur every year from preventable fire. Over time we would find that fire departments could save their energy and talent for those truly big incidents where they are most needed. Armed with what we now know about fire prevention and fire deaths and injuries, it seems like a very worthwhile endeavor to spend more time talking about and cultivating what I call "prevention thinking" in every fire related organization and in every community throughout the U.S.

I hope that this will be a very productive and busy Fire Prevention Week and that your efforts continue throughout the year and well into the future. For further information please visit www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/focus/.

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