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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2016 Vol. 63 No. 10

Fire Prevention Week

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire. In 1871 the fire 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 October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.

Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week is observed to save lives and protect property by keeping the public informed about the importance of fire prevention and the remembrance of the Great Chicago Fire.

Install alarm

The 2016 Fire Prevention week takes place October 9 – 15. The key message for this year's campaign is "Don't Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years!" This smoke alarm campaign represents the final year of a three-year outreach effort to educate the public about the basic essential elements of smoke alarm safety.

Naturally, home fire protection is in the forefront of everyone's mind, but what about the workplace? Most people feel safe when going to work and the thought of a fire engulfing the workplace can be horrifying experience. A building or office can be replaced, but an employee's life cannot.

Most buildings are bound by codes and regulations from the federal, state and city government agencies to ensure fire mitigation standards are being met. These standards include a certain number of fire drills that must be performed on a regular basis determined by local ordinances and statutory requirements for schools.

Since most of us were kindergarteners in school, we have practiced fire drills. The basics are still the same. You hear the alarm, stop what you are doing and find the exit to evacuate then go to your team's meeting point. Not hard right?

It is important to know where the determined meeting point is located. Accountability is essential in the rescue effort in the event an employee is unaccounted for during an actual emergency.

Keep in mind, even the most perfect plan will be useless if not practiced. Make sure to know two different ways out of the building in case the primary exit is blocked by smoke or fire.

If the fire alarm or smoke detector is activated in a building, never ignore it! Remain calm and safely evacuate the building. Most importantly, never re-enter the building till the all clear is given by appropriate first responders on scene.

Orlando Hernandez, State Coordinator for Life Safety, Texas Division of Emergency Management states:

"With the emerging events occurring in today's world, such as fires, active shooters and bombings, we must remain vigilant of our surroundings. It is important that we not only practice fire safety, but practice personal safety as well.

Always locate a secondary exit when visiting theaters, restaurants, shopping malls, churches and schools. The traditional rule of thumb is that 50 percent of the people in a building will exit using the same door they used to enter the building.

Most secondary exits are not used to their full capacity; using secondary exits can speed up evacuation times and provide more people with safe passage out of the building. As a challenge, next time you are out at your favorite restaurant, locate an alternative exit."

Fire drills may seem redundant and at times extremely inconvenient with daily activities, but fire drills are designed to prepare you and your co-workers to react for an actual emergency without hesitation.

Be safe, stay focused on your surroundings and be ready at a moment's notice.

State Fire Marshal's Office
National Fire Protection Association
U.S. Fire Administration

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