We’ve come a long way since the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, which killed hundreds of people and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. Fire prevention and protection technologies have evolved and improved drastically since the devastating fire 147 years ago, but that doesn’t negate the need for education, awareness, and vigilance when it comes to preventing fires and protecting yourself and your loved ones.

Every year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) designates a seven-day period in October as Fire Prevention Week. This year it kicks off on Sunday, October 7 with the following theme: Look. Listen. Learn. Be Aware. Fire Can Happen anywhere. This catchy-sounding campaign contains three key components when it comes to reducing the likelihood of a fire and escaping to safety in the event of one:

  • Look for places where a fire could start. During Fire Prevention Week, take the time to examine every nook and cranny of your home and workplace, identifying potential fire hazards and eliminating any dangers.
  • Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm. Now is a great time of year to test every smoke alarm in your home and make sure everyone knows what it sounds like and how to escape upon hearing it. Be sure to replace any old batteries, and set a reminder for next month to test them again, as the NFPA recommends testing your alarms at least once a month. According to a report conducted by the NFPA, three out of five fire home deaths from 2009-2013 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms. One out of five occurred in homes where smoke alarms were present but did not sound. For more information on smoke alarms and house fires in the U.S., check out the NFPA’s fact sheet.
  • Learn at least two ways out of every room. Discuss escape routes from each room in the house with your family, and make sure everyone understands the plan in the case of a fire. Ensure that all doors and windows leading to the outside are accessible, not obstructed by furniture or clutter, and easy to open from the inside.

We all remember the fire safety education we received in school, but let’s not forget that teenagers and adults are at risk too. In fact, reports show that the risk of nonfatal fire injury is highest among adults age 20-49. Harrington Group wants to remind everyone that fire can happen anywhere, at any time, and education is the best prevention tool. For more information, check out NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week website.