Fire Prevention Week – October 6 to 12

There’s probably nothing less sexy in the world of firefighting than Fire Prevention. Yet the truth is that those guys probably save more lives than those of us on the trucks ever will. The best fire protection is making sure it never starts in the first place.

October 6th to 12th is Fire Prevention week in Canada and the United States. Most Fire Departments will be hosting open houses and public demonstrations. Check with your local department to see what they’ve got planned. Or drop by your neighbourhood station for a visit. Most fire stations welcome visitors during daytime and early evening hours. (If you’ve got a group, like Scouts, Guides or a daycare it’s best to call ahead to book your visit).

This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Prevent Kitchen Fires”. More fires start in the kitchen than anywhere else in the home. Both the National Fire Protection Association in the USA and Fire Prevention Canada have great websites with resources for families, teachers and pretty much anyone interested in fire safety.

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Here are some basic rules for fire safety in the kitchen:

1)       Never leave cooking unattended. Turn the stove off, even if you just leave for a moment to answer the phone or go to the door.

2)       Always keep a pot lid and an oven mitt handy. If a fire does start in a pot or pan, slide the lid on from the side while wearing the oven mitt for protection.

3)       Never add water to a burning pot or pan. Burning fat or oil will spatter, possibly spreading the fire and you may scald yourself with steam.

4)       Avoid wearing loose or dangling clothing while cooking.

5)       Keep small children at least 3 feet (1 metre) away from the stove.

6)       It’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Store it within easy reach to the side of your stove, not in a cupboard over top. You don’t want to have to reach through the flames to get it.

7)       If you can’t extinguish the fire easily, by smothering it with a lid or with your extinguisher, leave and call 911 from a neighbour’s (066 in Mexico, 999 in the UK, 000 in Australia. Check here for emergency numbers in other countries).

Finally a word about smoke alarms. In 25 years as a firefighter I have never been to a fatality where there was a working smoke alarm. It’s the cheapest life insurance you will ever buy. You should install smoke alarms on every floor of your home, particularly outside any sleeping quarters.

Mounting your smoke alarm outside the kitchen, in the hallway or another adjacent room will cut down on the number of false alarms from steam and burnt toast.

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