Since 1922, the National Fire Protection Agency has recognized the week of October 9 as Fire Prevention Week to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire. The devastation of that fire alone claimed the lives of 250 people, and left 100,000 homeless. It destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.
In response to this catastrophic event, in 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in America.
Despite society’s countless steps toward fire prevention and fire safety education in the last century, fires are still a dangerous reality today. In fact, the NFPA reported that in 2021 alone, fire departments responded to 1,353,500 fires, which collectively resulted in 3,800 deaths, 14,700 injuries, and $15.9 billion in property damage.
As an insurance company, it’s our job to be there for our policyholders on some of the worst days of their lives. But we believe it’s equally important to be there every day of the year to help prevent those bad days from ever happening in the first place.
In honor of National Fire Prevention Week, we’ve prepared some safety tips to help you avoid a fire, and prepare and protect your property.
6 Tips for Fire Safety at Home
Tip #1: Plan and practice.
Tip #2: Know the right tool for the job.
Store a fire extinguisher on every level of your home, and make sure everyone in your family knows where to find them and how to use them. Look for extinguishers with an ABC rating, which are usable for all types of fires. Bonus tip: If you’re staying somewhere like an Airbnb, ask your host where to find the extinguishers. House fires are not limited to your house.
Tip #3: Change your batteries when you change your clocks.
Three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. Change your smoke alarm batteries when you change your clocks for daylight savings in the spring and autumn. Check out the NFPA’s smoke alarm guide for advice on everything from proper installation to testing.
Tip #4: Embrace “out with the old.”
Did you know that smoke alarms don’t last forever? You should replace your smoke alarms every ten years—even if they are still working.
Tip #5: Light the night right.
Power outages are never fun, but did you know they can quickly turn dangerous? The culprit: candles. Candles are responsible for an estimated 15,600 residential fires and 150 deaths each year, often when used during a power outage. Keep a flashlight and batteries on hand for emergencies instead of using candles for lighting. Be sure to test your flashlights and batteries regularly so they’re ready to go when you need them.
Tip #6: Don’t get burned by your heat source.
Have your chimney, fireplace, wood stove, and central furnace serviced regularly to ensure everything is in safe working condition before you start it up for the season. Learn more about seasonal fire safety hazards here.
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3 Tips for Cooking Fire Safety
Tip #1: Tune into what you’re doing & tune out the distractions.
Imagine the scene: You’re deep into the latest Netflix docuseries when the faint aroma of something burning wafts into the room, and you realize you’ve completely forgotten about the pot of food you left simmering on the stove. We’ve all been there. Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires—and unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires. One of the best ways to avoid a kitchen fire is to stay alert and tuned in to what you’re doing while cooking. Minimizing little distractions that cause you to lose track of time can have a huge impact.
Tip #2: Don’t let your gaurd down on holidays.
Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day, the day before Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas Eve. With houseguests, tight timelines, packed to-do lists, and alcohol in the mix, it’s easier than ever to get distracted while holiday hosting. In addition, frying is a leading culprit behind cooking fires. If you’re craving a fried turkey this Thanksgiving, consider leaving it to the pros and taking a pass on the dangers of the DIY experience!
Tip #3: Create a safe space.
Keep outdoor grills, cookers, and fryers a minimum of three feet away from your home, patio furniture, shrubbery, and other combustibles. In addition to reducing fire risks, your vinyl siding will thank you.
4 Tips for Fire Safety at Work
Tip #1: Educate your employees.
Practicing a fire evacuation plan with your employees increases the likelihood things will go smoothly in the event of an actual fire. Be sure to show everyone where fire alarms, extinguishers, and exits are located.
Tip #2: Light the way.
In a fire, smoke can quickly fill a space and obscure vision. Lighted exit signs and floor lights installed along major walkways make it easier to locate a safe escape path, especially if you must crawl to avoid smoke inhalation.
Tip #3: Keep it clear.
Clutter and debris can quickly become a workplace safety hazard, especially during a fire. A tidy office is a safe office. Ensure that walkways are kept clear at all times. This is especially critical around exits and any area that offers access to safety equipment like fire alarms and extinguishers.
Tip #4: Purge your papers.
Lower your fire risk by purging old papers that are no longer needed. This is a simple way to reduce the amount of combustible material present in your workplace.
Looking for more tips on fire safety? Visit the NFAP at nfpa.org.