Fire Prevention Week stresses importance of emergency planning

Aberdeen Proving Ground fire chief Adam Ballard and captain for prevention and public education Ernie Little

National Fire Prevention Week, an annual nationwide awareness campaign, observed during the week in which Oct. 9 falls, is in full force this week as first responders are stressing the importance of fire safety throughout the installation through several activities.

The week’s scheduled events include reading to children at the Aberdeen and Edgewood child development centers, hosting emergency evacuation and fire prevention displays, and conducting fire drills at several buildings on post.

While it’s important to spread the importance of fire prevention throughout the year, this week the message becomes a focal point, said APG Fire Chief Adam Ballard of the Directorate of Emergency Services.

“This is like our Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s that one week to really get out the message.”

Fire Prevention Week started in 1922 and it’s the longest running public health observance in the nation, according to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center.

Observed Oct. 8-14 this year, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The fire, which began Oct. 8, 1871, and did most of its damage the next day, killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out,” which stresses the importance of having an escape plan at home, in case fire breaks out.

According to an NFPA survey, one in three Americans have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Almost three in four Americans have an escape plan, but less than half have practiced it.

Ernie Little, the fire department’s captain for prevention and public education, suggests that those who live and work on the installation create diagrams and at least two escape routes for homes and offices, as well as identify at least two permanent locations outside of the building, such as a tree or a neighbor’s home, for everyone in the building to meet, in case of a fire.

“When you evacuate, you want to have a rally point to determine that everyone’s accounted for,” he said.

In homes, fires are often started in the kitchen while cooking, Little said. He said that in the event of a grease fire, to cover the pan, if possible using a wet towel to protect yourself. He said not to throw water on the grease fire, as water causes grease to spread. Do not attempt to put out the fire yourself. Get everyone out of the house and call 911.

Here are more fast facts about home fires:

  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 166,100 home cooking-related fires between 2010-2014 resulting in 480 civilian deaths, 5,540 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct damage.
  • Two of every five home fires (43 percent) started in the kitchen.
  • Unattended cooking was a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires.
  • Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with ignition of food or other cooking materials.
  • Ranges accounted for three of every five home cooking fire incidents (62 percent). Ovens accounted for 13 percent.
  • Children under 5 face a higher risk of non-fire burns associated with cooking and hot food and drinks than of being hurt in a cooking fire.
  • Children under 5 accounted for 30 percent of the 4,300 microwave oven scald burns seen in hospital emergency rooms during 2014.
  • Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1 percent of home cooking fires, but these incidents accounted for 18 percent of the cooking fire deaths.
  • More than half of the people injured in home fires involving cooking equipment were hurt while attempting to fight the fire themselves.
  • Frying is the leading activity associated with cooking fires.

For more information about Fire Prevention Week visit the NFPA website at http://www.nfpa.org/.

By Jon Bleiweis, APG News