The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is the impetus for Fire Prevention Week. The fire started in downtown Chicago, near the famous O'Leary barn. The fire spread quickly after a long, hot and dry summer. The city had grown quickly, and the construction type reflected that. The structures were made of wood, as were the sidewalks and the streets. The fire burned for three days and destroyed 3.5 square miles of downtown Chicago, left more than 100,000 people homeless and killed approximately 300 citizens.
Each year, a theme is selected for Fire Prevention Week. The theme for 2011 is “It's Fire Prevention Week - Practice Your Escape Plan,” which reminds us that many people say they have a fire escape plan, but very few practice the plan with their families.
In 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to 1.4 million fires and 25 percent of these were home fires. Home fires killed 3,010 people that year - roughly eight people every day. While it is estimated that 96 percent of U.S. homes have smoke alarms, about one-fifth of them are not working, usually due to dead or missing batteries. Similarly, a very small percent - 23 to be exact - actually have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Take the few minutes needed to make a map of your home, draw in the rooms, label them and mark in the doors and windows. Check smoke alarms and mark them on the plan, as well as your carbon monoxide alarms. Also, write down where you keep your family first-aid kit and disaster kit. Then practice the plan with your family and meet up at the predetermined family meeting place.
It is important to be prepared to escape from a fire if one occurs, but it is equally important to prevent fires from happening in the first place. Take steps to avoid fires by making sure your home and activities that take place there are as safe as possible. The leading causes of home fires are cooking, heating, electrical equipment and intentionally set fires.
Take a few minutes out of your day to make your family more fire-safe. You will learn a little, teach a little and have a good time in the process. You will also be passing down valuable fire safety lessons to the next generation. As always, if you have any questions about the home escape plan, stop by any Livonia fire station for help.
Be sure to visit us to help kick off Fire Prevention Week by attending our Open House on Saturday, Oct. 15, at fire station No. 3, located off Seven Mile Road at Wayne, at the entrance to Bicentennial Park. The hours are from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and you can greet your Livonia firefighters, see their full protective equipment, watch some fire demonstrations, learn and have fun all at the same time. Hope to see you there!
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.