Observing Fire Prevention Month

Children can learn about fire safety during National Fire Prevention Month.

October has been designated as National Fire Prevention Month -- a time when public service departments across America join forces to spread the word about fire safety.

About National Fire Prevention Month

Each year, the campaign focuses on a different aspect of safety, from preventing forest fires to planning an escape route during a blaze. While the campaign lasts the entire month, most police and fire departments designate the second week of October as Fire Prevention Week, during which demonstrations and expos are held in different U.S. cities.

Sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Fire Prevention Month has roots that date back to The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people and left more than 100,000 homeless. The fire, which was reportedly started in a barn, also burned more than 2,000 acres and destroyed about 17,400 structures. The three-day fire, which started October 8, did most of its damage on October 9, 1871, which is why Fire Prevention Week is always held around that date. The first National Fire Prevention Day was declared by President Woodrow Wilson in 1922, and the week-long observance is the longest running public safety and health campaign on record.

In 2000, the NFPA extended Fire Prevention Week to include the entire month of October, and entities such as public libraries, schools and utility companies joined in to spread the word not only about fire safety and prevention, but overall personal safety.

Fire Prevention Themes

Each year, a nationwide theme is chosen and localities gear their campaigns toward it. Some of them include:

  • "Practice Your Escape Plan" (2007)
  • "Home Cooking Fires: Watch What You Heat!" (2006)
  • "Use Candles with Care - When You Go Out Blow Out!" (2005)
  • "Test Your Smoke Alarms" (2004)
  • "When Fire Strikes, Get Out!" (2003)
  • "Team Up For Fire Safety" (2002)
  • "Cover the Bases and Strike Out Fire" (2001)
  • "Fire Drills - The Great Escape" (2000)

Fire Prevention Activities and Ideas

The goal of Fire Prevention Week, and its corresponding month, is to make the public more aware of how fires start, how to prevent them and how to be protected during blazes. However, fire prevention has gone beyond not playing with matches. Today, children and adults can educate themselves about the dangers associated not only with fires, but with natural disasters and household hazards as well. Many public service departments set up fairs in local store parking lots or parks during October and hold various safety demonstrations including:

  • What to do in case of an earthquake
  • How to prevent a forest or brush fire
  • Water conservation
  • The ins and outs of a fire truck
  • How a medical helicopter works
  • How a police canine does its job
  • What firefighters and other rescue workers wear during emergencies

Many of these departments also hand out safety-related activities and pamphlets, such as:

  • Coloring books about fire safety
  • Smokey the Bear hats
  • Firefighter hats
  • Police badge stickers
  • Pamphlets on water conservation, seasonal fire safety, and correct use of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as fire extinguishers.
  • How to design your fire escape route
  • How to hold a fire drill

What You Can Do at Home

Teaching fire prevention should not be limited to fairs or schools -- it is also something that should take a high priority at home. Some ways to teach fire safety at home include:

  • Fire safety puzzles and games
  • Creating and executing a fire escape route
  • Having periodic, unexpected fire drills
  • Locating all of your home's fire extinguishers
  • Purchasing a fireproof safe
  • Putting together an emergency supply kit including food, clothing, water and safety supplies
  • Knowing how to use all of your appliances, including the heater, air conditioner and hot water tank
  • Knowing how to store unused matches and lighters

A Final Thought

Don't wait until disaster strikes to find out about fire safety. There are many Web sites dedicated to fire prevention that can help you figure out a good plan of action for your family:

Observing Fire Prevention Month