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Fire Safety Corner: Fire Prevention Week 2020

Fire Prevention Week 2020 by: John Lightly

172,900. That’s the average number of house fires per year in the United States from 2014-2018 that were caused by home cooking fires. (NFPA Report) 172,900 fires creating an average of 550 deaths per year. 172,900 fires that injured on average almost 5,000 human beings per year. 172,900 fires that create over $1 Billion in property damages per year.

But these numbers are misleading. They don’t indicate the number of “almost had a fire” situations that occur daily. There is no way to track how many times a fire came close to taking place because of cooking. Human nature causes us to look at that big number (172,900) and think “that has never happened to me” and so we go on with our daily lives thinking nothing more about it.

How many times have YOU almost had a cooking fire? That should be of concern to all of us.

Fire Prevention Week was started in 1925 as a result of the Great Chicago Fire. Its intent was to raise awareness for the building and living conditions that could contribute to the cause of the spread of fires. Over time, it became a week in which emphasis was placed on all aspects of fire and life safety in our homes, schools, and businesses. Think back to when you were in grade school; the firefighters showed up and let you touch their equipment, practice fire escape drills, and blow the sirens. Perhaps some of the things learned in those educational moments have helped prevent fires in your own homes.

Fire Prevention Week for 2020 is October 4th through the 10th. The focus this year is on home cooking safety with regards to preventing fires.

Statistics indicate that 31% of the time, the home cooking fire is caused by inattention. People start the meal preparation process and get distracted, leave the room, or fall asleep. By the time they return to check on the cooking, it’s often too late. When was the last time that YOU were distracted while trying to get dinner on the table?

The numbers show that there is little variance between the month of the year or the day of the week. Sure, there is an uptick on Thanksgiving, but the rest of the year stays quite consistent. Fires occur with regularity. The fats, greases, butters, margarines and cooking oils that are used to keep food from sticking in the pan? They are the item that first begins to burn over 50% of the time. When was the last time that YOU used those products?

Over the years listed in this report, approximately 20% of the time there were NO smoke detectors present or that did not operate for some reason. 1 in 5 fires. Over 250 human beings died as a result. Per year. Simply caused by the fact that someone was hungry and went to the kitchen to fix something to eat. When was the last time that YOU checked your smoke detector to make sure it was working properly?

The National Fire Protection Association has a wealth of information on home cooking safety as well as other fire issues in and around our homes. Go to NFPA and take the time to review the information, to teach your kids, and to share it with your loved ones. Many fire departments across the country have scaled back or completely canceled their normal Fire Prevention Week activities due to the continuing pandemic. Please, take personal responsibility to educate yourself this year.

It may be a difference between life and death.

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