October is Fire Prevention Month
Every day of every month should (must) be!
The “celebration” of the Great Chicago Fire of Sunday October 8, 1871, originated when reportedly Mrs. Catherine O’Leary’s cow Daisy kicked over a kerosene lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn located at the rear corner of 137 De- Koven and Twelfth streets, igniting nearby combustibles and causing the horrific fire. The fire raged for two days and nights, covering 2,100 acres, resulting in 200 deaths, destroying 17,450 buildings and leaving approximately100,000 persons homeless. The population of Chicago at that time was estimated to be approximately 324,000.
Summer 2013 is winding down, vacations are over and life will return to some semblance of order. At school, our children will experience the dreaded fire exercises (drill). These exercises may be supervised by local firefighters or the principal-in-charge. It is typically performed monthly and should always be treated as the “real-deal”, never “just another fire drill”. This leads to another must do exercise, that is E.D.I.T.H., Exit Drill In The Home. As parents, we must test the household’s smoke alarm(s) and CO detectors every week. Make certain that everyone recognizes the sound(s), have a plan to escape the house in time of need (fire/smoke/CO) and a predetermined place to meet outside the house for accountability. Know that 3 beeps with a short pause in-between beeps is smoke/fire alert and 4 beeps with a short pause in-between beeps is a CO warning alarm, if you have one.
At school, all teachers carry with them a roll-call book to “count heads” outside. At home, accountability is very important. The first arriving emergency responders must be informed immediately upon their arrival if all family members are accounted for [or not].
All parents sending their kids to college must take an active interest in the type of safety and security construction of the buildings on the campus and especially the dormitories or apartments in which they will eat, sleep and hangout. Determine if the buildings are sprinkled, if they contain smoke alarms (are they ionization and or photoelectric type), CO detectors, do they have escape plans and are fire exercises (drills) practiced regularly. Learn the difference of ionization and photoelectric alarms, how they operate and what type of fire they are sensitive to detect.
Smoke alarms are mobile or portable. Some are battery powered, with 10 year batteries and some are electric and can be plugged-in to the building’s electrical service at a duplex receptacle. Some of these alarms also contain a battery backup should the power fail.
And last but not least. Smoking and drinking alcohol do not combine well; the results can be deadly. For additional information, consult your local fire/ emergency folks or log onto www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens/.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII) and a fire instructor; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, forensic investigator having investigated several thousand fires and testified over 60 times throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Chairman of the Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane, Lancaster, PA.