Fire Prevention Day occurs every October and exists to raise awareness of practices that can help prevent these disasters and to recognize the work of the firefighters who relieve them.
The United States has one of the highest fire death rates in the world, resulting in approximately 5000 deaths every year, and a further 25,000 injuries, highlighting just how important fire safety and education still really is.
Fire Prevention Day is an excellent opportunity to discuss fire safety with your kids, friends, and family, in a fun but educational way, with lots of activities and shared resources.
History of Fire Prevention Day
In May 1919, a resolution was passed, which urged the government within the United States and Canada to support the campaign for an annual Fire Prevention Day.
The first Fire Prevention day was announced in 1920 by President Woodrow Wilson, which was later expanded into an entire National Fire Prevention Week, and proclaimed a national observance by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925. Coolidge deemed the day as very important, noting that an estimated 15,000 lives in the United States were lost in the previous year due to fires.
Fire prevention day is often used to commemorate particularly famous and devastating fires in individual communities, such as the notable Great Chicago Fire in North America in 1871. According to the legend, this fire was started by a cow who kicked over a lantern in a shed.
The fire aggressively burned for more than 27 hours and resulted in the loss of over 300 lives and destroyed 17,000 buildings, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless as a result.
The non-profit National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, has traditionally been and continues to be the international sponsor of the day. They observe the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire as a way to keep the public informed about the importance of fire safety and prevention. The NFPA selects a theme for Fire Prevention Week each year, with the theme for 2019 being ‘Plan and Practice Your Escape.’
For 2020, the theme will be ‘Serve Up Fire Safety In the Kitchen, ‘ which focuses on safety within the kitchen. It aims to educate families and individuals on simple actions that they can take on themselves to keep them and others safe while cooking and preparing meals, using the oven, cooker, etc.
Considered not only important in the United States, other countries also celebrate Fire Prevention Week annually. In Canada, the last Saturday of the week is proclaimed as Fire Service Recognition Day to express gratitude and thanks to the Canadian fire service and their many public services. In Australia, Fire Prevention Week is also held annually, but at the end of April instead.
How to celebrate Fire Prevention Day
The most important way to prevent fires is through education and awareness. In particular, children and teenagers need to learn about fire hazards and safety, and a focus on fire education is ultimately what this day is all about, utilizing various available resources as tools.
On Fire Prevention Day, children and adults alike learn about fire prevention including how to stay safe, what to do in case of a fire, and how to prevent them in the first place.
Previous Fire Prevention Days have kicked off with slogans such as ‘Fire Feeds on Careless Deeds’ and ‘Don’t Give Fire a Place to Start.’
Acronyms such as ‘EDITH’ (Exit Drills In The Home) are also taught to encourage families to have an escape plan set up in case of an event of a fire. It also promotes smoke alarm installations and checks and showcases the importance of awareness and dangers from everyday household items such as candles.
During the celebration, people congratulate firefighters, recognizing how they put their lives on the line daily to keep them safe and express gratitude for their sacrifices. Firefighters also provide education and life-saving information to their communities.
Various fire-prevention and fire-safety materials are promoted throughout communities and schools in different formats, ranging from online games for kids to play from their homes on computers, tablets, laptops or phones, and activity booklets to complete at home or school. Banners and posters are also on sale to promote the day at schools and community halls, as well as magnets and badges to raise even more awareness.
The NFPA also has a Sparky the Fire Dog mascot, specially aimed at children to make them more interested and engaged in learning about fire prevention, and sell products with Sparky to appeal to a younger audience. This aids in educating kids on topics such as testing smoke alarms, cooking safely, and practicing escape plans.