(WKBN) — What started as one day of remembrance is now an annually recurring week of awareness across the nation.
Fire Prevention Week was started by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 1922 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week to occur from Oct. 4-10, in remembrance of the fire that could have been prevented, according to the president. The fire caused roughly $200 million in damages, killing around 300 people, and destroying over 17,000 buildings and structures.
While the dates may change, the message remains the same: learning about fire prevention can help prevent catastrophes like the Great Chicago Fire from happening again.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week centers around the theme of cooking safety. Nationwide, cooking fires cause more than $1 billion in direct property damages per year and inattentive cooking remains the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties according to the National Fire Protection Association.
“A cooking fire can grow quickly. I have seen many homes damaged and people injured by fires that could easily have been prevented. It’s crucial that we take responsibility for our actions in the kitchen to protect our loved ones and our homes,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin S. Reardon.
Today’s homes are filled with synthetic materials that burn hotter and faster than ever. In a typical fire, you may have as little as two minutes to safely exit the structure from the time you first hear a smoke alarm. Knowing how to use that time wisely is critical, and it takes both planning and practice.
To ensure that meals are prepared safely, follow these tips:
- Always stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling food; if you need to leave, turn off the stove
- Do not leave your home while an oven is in operation
- Keep anything that may catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, etc. — away from stovetops
- Have a kid-free zone of at least 3 feet around the stove and other areas where hot foods are prepared
It is also important to have a home escape plan that includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. A good plan includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place that is a safe distance from the home.
Some additional fire safety tips to keep family members safe are:
- Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case adults are not able to help them
- Make sure your house number is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find
- Close doors behind you as you leave — this may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire
- Never go back inside a burning building. Once outside, stay outside
Fire Prevention Week will range from Oct. 8-14 this year.