Proper Safety Procedures Can Prevent Fires
By Congressman Michael Turner
A recent string of wildfires in California damaged more than 19,000 acres outside of Los Angeles and forced thousands of people from their homes. While California recently suffered an extreme example of the damage that fire can do, individual fires occur in neighborhoods and homes throughout the country. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, there were 1,557,500 residential fires that caused 3,430 deaths in 2007 alone. Property damage losses resulting from these fires totaled $14.6 billion dollars. Many potential fire hazards go undetected because people do not take proper steps to insure the safety of their homes. Because of the dangers that fires represent, Congress declared a recent week in October National Fire Prevention Week.
The origin of National Fire Prevention Week can be traced back to the Great Chicago Fire of October 8, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire killed approximately 300 people, destroyed over 17,000 structures, and left 100,000 people homeless. Although legend has it that the fire began when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern, the official cause remains subject to speculation. On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, a decision was made to mark the date with a larger commemoration. The Fire Marshals Association of North America took the opportunity to begin providing the nation with information to prevent future fires. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge established the first official National Fire Prevention Week. Since the first National Fire Prevention Week, a great deal has been accomplished to reduce fires and make our lives safer.
There are many things you can do to keep your family safe from fires. Many bedroom fires are caused by the improper use of electrical devices, candles, smoking in bed, and children playing with matches and lighters. As we continue to promote educating citizens about fire prevention, this is a great time to review some general fire safety measures that will protect your home. Below is a short list of tips from firesafety.gov that can help you and your family prevent fires:
- Do not trap electric cords against walls where heat can build up
- Use extension cords safely and do not store them under rugs or doorways.
- Take extra care when using portable heaters. Keep bedding, clothes, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
- Place at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home.
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
Even if you take every action to protect your home from fire, it is important that your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and properly working. It is also important to regularly change the batteries in the smoke detectors in your home. Lastly, you can make sure that you have a fire extinguisher that is adequately charged. If you would like more information on fire prevention, please visit http://www.firesafety.gov.