October 6-12, 2019

Every year in early October, the fire protection community reflects on one of the most devastating fires in American history, and the progress we’ve made since then. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed more than 2,000 acres of the city, killed roughly 300 people and left more than 100,000 residents homeless. The city’s fire department was equipped with fewer than 20 horse-drawn steam engines That same day, fires in Peshtigo, Wisconsin and in forests around the state of Michigan destroyed thousands more structures and killed upwards of 2,500 more people.

The National Fire Protection Association has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922, and according to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, it’s the longest-running public health and safety campaign on record. This year it kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 6, and the NFPA has chosen to focus on household safety and protection. 

“Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape!”

This year’s memorable, rhyming campaign is a reminder that you don’t have to be a firefighter or an engineer to promote fire safety and protect your home and loved ones. The number of home structure fires has steadily decreased over the years, but between 2012 and 2016, more than 350,000 fires still occurred in homes, causing about 2,500 civilian deaths and $6.5 billion in direct property damage.

According to the NFPA, during a typical home fire, you may have as little as two minutes from the time the smoke alarm sounds to safely get out. This makes escape planning and practicing crucial — everyone in the household should practice escaping from every room so that if the time comes, they’ll know exactly what to do when the alarm sounds and how to use that limited time wisely.

Here are some quick tips for establishing a home fire escape plan:

  1. Draw a diagram of your home, including every room, window, and door.
  2. Mark two exits from each room with paths to the outside.
  3. Include the location of smoke alarms. (Now is also a great time to test and replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.)
  4. Designate a place outside the home where everyone will meet after exiting.
  5. Include any local emergency numbers on the plan, and be ready to call that number (or 911) once you’re outside.
  6. Practice this plan with everyone in your household at least twice a year.

The campaign also emphasizes that when it comes to fire safety, anybody and everybody can be a hero. All that entails is taking “small, but important actions to keep themselves and those around them safe from fire.” That can mean leading your own family through a discussion about fire safety and establishing a home escape plan, or going out into the community and sharing your knowledge with children, adults or elderly.

The NFPA has laid out a series of ready-to-use tools and resources for anybody who wants to spread the word about fire safety. This includes conversation talking points, flyers, a fundraising letter, a press release and social media tips. Activities for kids are also available.

You never know who might need to hear this information, so be a hero in your home, your neighborhood and your community. Check out the NFPA’s comprehensive Fire Prevention Week website for more information.