2017-09-29 / In the Know

Fire prevention week is right time for learning

By B. Michael Thurlow Special to the Leader

Each year during the month of October the Scarborough Fire Department, like thousands of departments nationwide, provides public fire education programs to our citizens.

As our community has grown, so have the requests for assistance with public education. In fact the demand has forced us to turn fire prevention week into fire prevention month.

The history of Fire Prevention Week can be traced back to the Great Chicago Fire, which started on Oct. 8, 1871 and continued through Oct. 9.

In just 27 hours, this conflagration killed 300, left 90,000 people homeless and destroyed 17,400 structures.

In 1911, on the 40th anniversary of the tragic event, the Fire Marshal’s Association of North America started the tradition of using this anniversary to keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.

During the next nine years this effort became so effective that in 1920 President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day Proclamation setting Fire Prevention Week as the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 8 falls each year.

During the years a wealth of data has been generated proving that fire prevention activities save lives. The best method of preventing or reducing the severity of fire is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

We do this through the three Es, Education, Engineering, and Enforcement.

Education is a year-round activity that takes a variety of forms, but during the month of October we concentrate on the youngsters in our community.

The department works with the elementary schools, nursery schools and day care centers to provide age appropriate fire safety education.

We teach a variety of lessons including the proper way to use 911, the importance of having a home safety and escape plan, crawl low in smoke, stop drop and roll and a variety of others.

Engineering refers to risk reduction strategies that have been built into products and homes. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are examples of engineered solutions as are sprinkler systems and fire rated drywall in your home.

The idea is to build homes that are safer and to provide early warning systems which will provide the precious time necessary to escape a burning structure.

Enforcement refers to the methods used to ensure compliance. Fire is a public safety event because, as we saw in the Great Chicago Fire, it can spread to involve not only your neighbor’s home, but an entire community.

Examples of enforcement include modern building codes that require new homes to have interconnected dual powered smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire escape windows in bedrooms and fire rated sheetrock on the walls.

Fire prevention week isn’t just for school age children. It is a great time for every family to conduct a home fire safety inspection, including testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and making sure you have a home escape plan and designated meeting place where you can account for all members of the family and update the fire department upon our arrival.

To celebrate fire prevention week this year, the public safety departments are hosting an open house at our public safety building, 246 Route 1 on Saturday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We have a number of fire safety and police department demonstrations and educational opportunities including hands only CPR instruction, police K-9 demonstrations, visits by Sparky the Fire Dog and Smokey Bear, a smoke trailer to demonstrate safe escape from a child’s smoke filled bedroom, seatbelt convincer and many other fun things to learn and do.

Lunch and refreshments will be served and we will have a free bounce house to entertain the little ones while their parents take tours of our facility and learn about the new public safety building project.

Please put 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 on your calendar and plan to join us for this free, fun, family oriented open house.

I’m confident you and your children will enjoy it and learn something that may save a life someday. If you have any questions on the open house or the department’s fire prevention programs feel free to contact me at mthurl@ci.scarborough.me.us or 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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