Plan ahead for Fire Prevention Week

By Tom Kiurski

It’s that time of year again. The time when all eyes look to the fire department as the lead agency in bringing home the messages of fire and life safety. The time
when schools, scout groups, businesses and homeowner associations call and want to
learn how to be fire safe.

It’s time for fire departments across America to shine
and do all they can to teach their communities. It’s time to review, plan, build and educate.

Of course, I am talking about Fire Prevention Week. Now is the time to sit down and plan your Fire Prevention Week activities. Sit down and review what you normally do and make plans for that.

Ask what has been done in previous campaigns, and why it hasn’t been done recently. If it didn’t work out well, let it go. If it worked well, but needs some tweaking, get working on it. Assign it to a motivated member or two. Now comes the difficult part: Ask yourselves what needs to be done.

Each Fire Prevention Week has a theme, and time year it is “Prevent Cooking Fires – Watch What You Heat.” See how that theme can be incorporated into your October campaigns (the actual dates of Fire Prevention Week 2006 is October 8 ¿ 14, but many groups will apply the theme to other times of the month.

Begin with the basics and go to the source. The official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They have materials for
fire departments to use that are cost-free and readily available on your personal computer.

Go to their website at nfpa.org and click on the Fire Prevention Week link in the middle of the page and get started. There are many resources there, so use them liberally. There are newspaper ideas, television and cable ideas and artwork to help decorate your fire stations during the week.

When speaking to groups, a great opening is a review of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 ¿ the reason Fire Prevention Week falls when it does. The Great Chicago Fire started after a dry summer, when building was going at a breakneck pace in Chicago ¿ wooden buildings, wooden sidewalks, wooden streets¿you get the picture. Chicago was booming at the time, with the populations increasing daily. The fire started near
the O’Leary barn (leave the cow out of this ¿ she was proven innocent!) and burned for several days, killed more than 250 people, left over 100,000 people homeless and destroyed over 17,000 buildings.

Use your local media to invite the public to visit the fire stations. Every child is fascinated with fire trucks, the fire station and firefighters. Make sure you have some handouts for the kids who visit, such as coloring books, stickers or bookmarks. Consider teaming up with your cable department to make a “Fire Prevention Week” Public Service Announcement (PSA) to air for families to see. Call the newspaper editor and ask for a fire safety article to be run during the week, and have the invitation for families to drop by included.

The Open House event can also be used to great advantage in educating a large number of people at one window of time. Set up learning and practice stations for “Stop, Drop and Roll” and for “Crawling Low Under Smoke”. Have displays of burned objects
for citizens to look at, and have plenty of firefighters on hand to teach and answer questions.

If your community has access to a fire safety house, give it a cleaning and make sure it is in proper working condition ¿ and expect large crowds. No child is happy
with only one trip through the fire safety house!

These are a few suggestions. Take them and use them, or use some of your own. The bottom line is Fire Prevention Week is a great time to make your community more fire safe. Use it ¿ your community will be glad you did.

TOM KIURSKI, a 25-year veteran of the fire service, has served Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue for the past 20 years as a lieutenant, a paramedic, and the director of fire
safety education. He is the author of Creating a Fire Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999), and of at least 150 fire service
articles published in numerous publications, including fire service magazines. Kiurski has an associate’s degree in fire science, a bachelor’s degree in fire and
safety engineering technology, and an MPA.

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