October is Fire Prevention Month

Submitted by Jill Bronaugh

Today’s home fires burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one or two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.

Governor Jeff Colyer officially proclaimed Oct. 7 through 13, 2018, as Fire Prevention Week in Kansas. The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) and Safe Kids Kansas teamed up with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) — the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years — to promote this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere™,” which works to educate the public about basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire.

In Kansas, 100 percent of civilian fire deaths in 2017 occurred in residential structure fires, and there were 2,589 residential fires in Kansas in 2017, resulting in 18 deaths and 214 injuries.

NFPA statistics show that the number of U.S. home fires has been steadily declining over the past few decades. However, the death rate per 1,000 home fires that are reported to fire departments was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980.

While people feel safest in their home, it is also the place people are at greatest risk to fire, with four out of five U.S. fire deaths occurring at home. That over-confidence contributes to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice.

“We know that people often make choices in fire situations that jeopardize their safety or even cost them their lives,” said Doug Jorgensen, State Fire Marshal. “We need to do a better job of teaching people about the potentially life-saving difference escape planning and practice can make and motivating them to take action.”

Safe Kids Kansas reminds families that Saturday, Oct. 13, is Home Fire Drill Day. This is an opportunity to plan, talk about and practice your fire plan with all your family members, especially young children, so they know what to do when they hear a smoke alarm.

“Teach children to get low and get out when they hear the smoke alarm,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “A child who has practiced getting out of the home and to a safe meeting spot will have a better chance of getting out of danger safely during a real emergency, so practice your escape plan regularly as a family.”

Jorgensen says this year’s “Look. Listen. Learn.” campaign highlights three steps people can take to help quickly and safely escape a fire.

• Look for places fire could start.

• Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm.

• Learn two ways out of every room.

While OSFM, Safe Kids Kansas and NFPA are focusing on home fires, these fire safety messages apply to virtually anywhere.

“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go,” Jorgensen said. “No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.”

For more information about Fire Prevention Week activities in Kansas, visit firemarshal.ks.gov. To learn more about this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn.” and home escape planning, visit firepreventionweek.org.

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