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Toi Degree column: October is Fire Prevention Month

By Toi Degree
N.C. Cooperative Extension

October is Fire Prevention Month! The goal of Fire Prevention Month the week of Oct. 4-10 is to raise fire safety awareness and help ensure your home and family have a plan and are ready for the unexpected. Since 1922, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country.

During this month, firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires. Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of Oct. 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on Oct. 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.

The NFPA’s 2020 campaign for Fire Safety Month is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” The campaign works to educate everyone about simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.

According to NFPA, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. Almost half (44%) of reported home fires started in the kitchen. Two-thirds (66%) of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.

According to Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice-president of outreach and advocacy “cooking fires can be prevented.” Here are a few simple things that you can do stay in the kitchen, use a timer, and avoid distractions such as electronics or TV are steps everyone can take to keep families safe in their homes.” Below you will find additional things to consider as well.

  • Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • You have to be alert when cooking. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs, or consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.
  • Always keep an oven mitt and pan lid nearby when you’re cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner, and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

For more general information about Fire Prevention Week and cooking fire prevention, go to www.fpw.org

For information on how to plan your emergency escape route, go to https://www.firstalert.com/community/safety-corner/escape-plan/

For the most current information on our programs, like and follow us on Facebook at Rowan County Cooperative Extension and you can also visit our website at https://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu/.

Toi N. Degree is associate family and consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Contact her at 704-216-8970 or toi_degree@ncsu.edu

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