National Fire Prevention Week is underway, and Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services is out and about making sure Soldiers and Families know how to protect themselves.
This year’s activities have included an elementary school poster contest, story time at the Robert F. Sink Memorial Library and an informational booth at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.
“It’s important to remind everybody that a fire can happen to anyone at any time,” said Wendy Leo, fire inspector, FCFES. “You want to make sure to take a pause in your busy lives, check everything at home and make sure your Family is safe.”
The National Fire Protection Association has encouraged Families to do just that since 1922, when the organization began sponsoring National Fire Prevention Week. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it a national observance in 1925, making it the longest-running public health observance in the U.S.
National Fire Prevention Week falls on the week of Oct. 9 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which began Oct. 8, 1871. The incident ultimately killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.
Each year’s observance highlights tips to prevent fires at any scale, so smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are a major focus with this year’s theme: “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety.”
“Working smoke alarms save lives, so always have your smoke alarm working in the home,” Leo said.
Leo said cooking fires are the No. 1 hazard on- and off-post, and improperly discarded cigarettes are another common cause. Whatever the situation, working smoke alarms are key in making sure Families can get out safely.
“We always remind everyone to check their smoke alarms once a month by just pressing the test button,” she said. “If you’re renting, make sure you check those smoke alarms and don’t rely on the landlord to take care of them, because it’s your Family that lives in that house. If they’re over 10 years of age, go ahead and get them replaced, or call your landlord to get them replaced. There’s a date stamped on the back of them. Carbon monoxide alarms are normally good for five to seven years, and they have a date on the back as well.”
Families should be prepared with a strong fire evacuation plan if an alarm goes off and practice it once or twice a year, Leo said.
“One important thing is to have two ways out of every room,” she said. “In a bedroom, for example, you have two ways out: one is the door going into the next room, and the other is more than likely the window.”
Escaping through a window is dangerous and should only be done in emergencies, Leo said, but Families are encouraged to practice evacuating through doorways.
“The biggest thing is that you want to have one safe meeting place outside your home,” she said. “If I’m outside and can’t find my child when we were supposed to meet under the tree, that child is inside the house – or even scarier, that child might be in the backyard.”
Regularly practicing an evacuation plan is the best way to make sure the entire Family knows how to safely reach the meeting spot, Leo said. Once the household is evacuated, Families should call 911 to alert the fire department during actual incidents.
Elementary school students across the installation have also been learning fire safety tips in class, and they competed in a poster contest based on this year’s National Fire Prevention Week theme.
“The kids get really creative with the posters, and it opens up the conversation at home,” Leo said. “Kids come back from school and say ‘hey, I’ve got to do a coloring contest,’ so mom and dad will be involved and they have that discussion about fire safety within their Family.”
Winning posters are currently on display at the Main Exchange, and the grand prize contest winner also will receive $100 from AAFES, a ride to school in a fire truck and a class pizza party from Domino’s.
FCFES also helped children brush up on their fire safety skills with two reading events hosted Oct. 7 at the Robert F. Sink Memorial Library, and is currently running an informational booth at AAFES to raise awareness of fire prevention techniques.
“Even during our safety briefings with the units for the holidays, there’s always a fire safety component,” Leo said. “That’s where we always try to push our fire safety messages out. Hopefully people take it seriously and protect their Families, because a brief conversation could save somebody’s life.”