Fire Prevention Week (October 8-14, 2017) has been commemorated since 1922, making it the longest running public health observance in the U.S. The week always includes the date of October 9, in remembrance of the Great Chicago Fire that destroyed more than 17,400 structures, left 100,000 homeless, and killed 250.
While legend has it that “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow” started the blaze by knocking over a lantern in a barn, a Chicago Tribune reporter later admitted that he had made the story up. The real origin of the fire is still unknown, although there are a number of theories, including a meteorite.
Few fires today, if any, are started by careless bovine or falling space debris. Cooking equipment is by far the most common culprit, followed by heating equipment, electrical faults, intentional fires and smoking.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which sponsors Fire Prevention Week, 25% of home fire deaths are caused by fires that started in the bedroom, with an additional 25% resulting from fires in the living room, family room or den. Additionally, half of the home fires that result in casualties occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are presumably sleeping.
The theme of this year’s week is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” The goal of the campaign is to make sure people have an escape plan in mind – two ways out of every room in the house – and that families with children and pets have fire drills twice a year so that everyone knows how to get out safely in case of a fire.
The NFPA offers this helpful checklist for practicing your escape plan.
Additionally, the NFPA also provides the following Fire Safety Tip Sheets that can help you be prepared in case of a home fire.
- Escape planning (PDF)
- Smoke alarms at home (PDF)
- Home fire sprinklers (PDF)
- Fire alarms in apartment buildings (PDF)
- High-rise apartments/condominiums (PDF)
- Fire safety in manufactured homes (PDF)