Monday, June 28, 2010
An Ounce of Prevention...
There are few businesses that work really hard at putting themselves out of work. The worse thing any employee can do is rob himself of job security. There are, however, a few exceptions to these rules. The fire service is one of them. We literally try to get the fire out of the fire department. In time past, we were a reactive service. You had a fuel lamp get knocked over and start a fire; you called the fire department and we responded, put the fire out and that was pretty much it. There were no pamphlets on "Fuel Lamp Safety" to hand out, nor were there demonstrations to elementary-aged kids showing them how to properly hang fuel lamps.
So what was the point we began transitioning from being reactive to becoming proactive? Believe it or not, about 150 years ago.
On Oct. 9, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire started. This tragic fire killed about 300 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. One popular legend claims that Mrs. Catherine O'Leary was milking her cow when the animal kicked over a fuel lamp, set the O'Leary's barn on fire and started the fiery conflagration. The city of Chicago was fast to rebuild and soon began to remember the event with festivities. The Fire Marshals Association of North America (FMANA)believed the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should be observed in a way that would keep the public aware of the importance of fire prevention.
On Oct. 9, 1911, FMANA sponsored the first National Prevention Day. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first national Fire Prevention Day proclamation. By 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week, which was Oct. 4-10, 1925. National Fire Prevention Week is always the week in which Oct. 9 falls. Each year, a specific theme is chosen and is commemorated throughout the United States.
Public education has brought great improvement in fire prevention in the United States. Many people have learned to take precautions against fire. Boys and girls in schools practice fire drills and learn how to prevent fires. They bring that information home to their parents. Each person is urged to examine his own home, both inside and out, and to make it safe from fire. Truth is, I would much rather give your kid a coloring book and a sticker than put him in the back of an ambulance because you were too busy to keep him away from the boiling pot on the stove.
About half of all fires are caused by carelessness or lack of common sense. Every year, thousands of people loose their lives beacuse they did not heed the little voice saying, "You are overloading that outlet!", or "Don't use gasoline to start that!" To rephrase an old saying..."An ounce of stupidity with respect to fire is worth a pound of charred skin." Are you paying attention to fire prevention in your home or workplace? Do you have working smoke detectors? Do you have fire extinguishers? Let me rephrase this again..."A $40 fire extinguisher is worth $4,000 in fire damage." or even better "A $20 smoke detector is worth a life saved." I have actually said to a homeowner, who seemed indifferent about a non-working smoke detector, "If I give you $3 will you go and buy the 9 volt battery to replace the dead one in your smoke detector? It's worth $3 to me not to have to call your survivors." If you think I sounded harsh...get over it and make your home or workplace safer.
Check out this family friendly checklist: http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//FPW10/FPW2010checklist.pdf