By Dr. Kim Ehrhardt, Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment
The Great Chicago Fire took place on October 9, 1871. More than 300 people died, 100,000 were left homeless, and more than 2,000 acres of the city were destroyed. The Peshtigo fire in northeast Wisconsin took place at the same time destroying sixteen towns and killing more than 1,100 people. The great devastation caused by these fires left such an imprint on the psyche of fire-fighting professionals that forty years later the Fire Marshals Association of North America instituted Fire Prevention Week, from Sunday through Sunday in whatever week October 9 falls.
Despite the advent of modern building materials (that reduce the likelihood of fire), home fires still cause numerous deaths and injuries. This year the National Fire Protection Association is focusing attention on promoting fire safety and prevention all year long. Many potential fire hazards go undetected because people simply do not take steps to fireproof their homes.
Many bedroom fires are caused by misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices, careless use of candles, smoking in bed, and children playing with matches and lighters. Most potential hazards can be addressed with a little common sense. For example, be sure to keep flammable items like bedding, clothes and curtains at least three feet away from portable heaters or lit candles and never smoke in bed. Also, items like appliances or electric blankets should not be operated if they have frayed power cords, and electrical outlets should never be overloaded.
Fire Safety Checklist:
•Install and maintain a working smoke alarm outside of every sleeping area and remember to change the battery at least once a year.
•Designate two escape routes from each bedroom and practice them regularly.
•Teach everyone the "Stop, Drop, and Roll" technique in case clothing catches on fire.
•Avoid storing old mattresses in the home or garage.
•Teach kids that matches, lighters and candles are tools, not toys.
If you suspect that a child is playing with fire, check under beds and in closets for telltale signs like burned matches. Matches and lighters should be stored in a secure drawer or cabinet.
Please take this week to learn more about ways to keep our students and families safe from the dangers of fire.