Every year since 1922, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, we observe National Fire Prevention Week on the Sunday-through-Saturday period in which October 9th falls. This week-long observance reminds the public about the importance of fire prevention, and is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. Last year in Massachusetts, there were more than 31,000 reported fires and a resulting 39 deaths, according to data from the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS). These statistics emphasize the need to practice fire safety tips to prevent harmful and sometimes deadly blazes.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, two out of every five home fires start in the kitchen. As a result, the theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Prevent Kitchen Fires.” There are several factors that can contribute to kitchen fires, including unattended cooking, clothing, food or other cooking materials igniting. It’s important to be careful in the kitchen and to follow some cooking safety tips to reduce the risk of a fire starting in your kitchen.
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food, and turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time.
- Use a timer to remind you that you are cooking and regularly check on food that is simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling.
- Keep anything that can catch fire, including oven mitts, towels, food packaging, wooden utensils, and loose clothing away from the stovetop.
While kitchen fires tend to be the largest source of home fires, there are a number of other hazards that you and your family should be aware of and take precautions against.
- Use caution when burning candles in the home and never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Be sure outlets, cords, and electrical devices are properly used, stored, and replaced if loose or damaged to prevent electrical fires.
- Space heaters and dryers produce a lot of heat and can ignite items in the surrounding area (or inside the machine, in the case of a dryer). These appliances should be operated in clean areas and never left running when no one is home.
- If your home has a fireplace, chimney, or woodstove, be sure it is inspected before use, and properly used and maintained.
Installing smoke alarms in the home can double your chances of survival if a fire occurs. Be sure to check the batteries and test the alarms regularly. There are smoke alarm alert devices available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. As an additional safety step, you may consider installing home fire sprinklers to help quickly combat a fire if one does occur. Finally, make a home escape plan for your family and practice fire drills during both the day and night to make sure that everyone knows how to get out in an emergency.
The Student Awareness of Fire Education (S.A.F.E.) Program is a state initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services to educate the public on fire hazards and key safety behaviors by providing resources to local fire departments to conduct fire and life safety education programs in grades K-12. The average annual number of fire-related deaths of children under age 18 has fallen by 70% since the start of the S.A.F.E. Program in 1995.
It’s important to be aware of fire hazards and know how to reduce the risk of a home fire. Installing functioning smoke alarms, and knowing what to do and how to escape if a fire breaks out in your home is essential to ensuring the safety of you and your family.