Each year during the week surrounding October 9th, Fire Prevention Week is observed in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire. The Great Chicago Fire began on October 8th, 1871, and did most of its damage on October 9th; including killing 250 people, 100,000 people left homeless, and more than 17,400 structures destroyed. In a fire, less than a minute can be the difference between life and death. National Fire Prevention Week brings awareness to fire safety education focusing on topics like what to do in a fire and creating emergency preparedness plans in case of a fire. Educating you and your students about where fires come from and how to respond to them, can help prevent fires in the home and in school.
The top five causes of fire are from cooking, heating, electronics, smoking, and candles. Here are some ways to reduce the risks of each cause of fires.
–Cooking fires are often caused by unattended cooking. Never use the stove top or oven if tired or inebriated. Cooking fires can also be avoided by staying present in the kitchen, using a timer, and not leaving anything near the stove top.
–Heating fires are most common during the winter months and can be prevented by turning off portable heaters when not in use, never using the oven as a heater, and having all heating equipment inspected regularly by qualified professionals.
–Fires caused by electronics are common since electronics are all around us. Knowing when to call a qualified electrician to check your electricity is important. An electrician should be called if: sparks are coming out of an outlet, lights are flickering or dimming, appliances are giving off a rubbery smell, and if there is a tingling feeling when touching an appliance.
–Smoking-related fires are caused by smoking materials. Fires caused by electronic cigarettes also fall under smoking-related fires. Batteries of electronic cigarettes should never be left charged alone. All smoking ashes should never be disposed into a vegetative area such as grass, bushes, mulch, etc. Always keep all smoking materials away and out of reach of small children.
-Fires can easily start when candles are left unattended. Blow out candles before falling asleep or leaving the room. Never burn a candle close to objects such as paper or anything else easily flammable. Put out candles before they burn to the bottom; burning at the bottom of the candle can easily lead to a fire. Always keep lighters and lit candles out of the reach of small children.
All fires can also be prevented by checking the batteries of smoke detectors and replacing smoke detectors every 10 years. If you are teaching a class that has sensory restricted students, use smoke detectors that produce strobe lights as well as the auditory sound.
In case a fire does occur, it is always best to be prepared. Teach students early on about what to do, and practice fire drills regularly. Fires also happen at home, so send information home with parents for them to discuss fire safety and emergency plans at home with children. Talk with students about who firefighters are and what they do. If possible, arrange for a tour of a local fire station or have firefighters come visit in the classroom. Have students see a firefighter in full uniform and discuss why it is they were them. In an emergency, anyone should be able to go to a fireman and not feel afraid.
The National Fire Prevention Association celebrates National Fire Prevention Week every October. Information on risks, emergency preparedness plans, lesson plans, and so much more can be found here.