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Educational Efforts Must Continue Beyond Fire Prevention Month in October

(Appeared in November 2016 issue of The Dispatcher)

marty-kingThe end of October generally represents a sign of relief for most members of the fire service. With Fire Prevention Week in October, the entire month often reflects the year’s largest push for fire safety and fire prevention education and measures. Fire officials visit schools, host open houses and fire station tours, and install smoke alarms to educate the public about the dangers of fire. Many fire departments also employ the 5 E’s of fire prevention and risk reduction – Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Economic Incentives, and Emergency Response – to reduce property loss and fire injuries and deaths.

So what is next as we enter November? As winter approaches, fire departments need to ready gear and equipment to assist with weather-related incidents. Also, before the weather gets worse, complete smoke alarm installs where needed and consider neighborhood canvasses to see if homes have properly working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. The canvass or EMS responses may yield other potential fire safety issues that must be addressed: space heaters, fireplaces, candles, and alternative use of heat sources (gas or electric stoves, grills, or fuel-fired portable space heaters). These heating issues can be potential sources of fire, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning. Testing of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be done while in the home, depending on the EMS emergency.

Commercial properties, whether old or new, must also be on fire departments’ fire safety radars. Fire prevention in the workplace could mean preventing fires from space heaters, kitchen cooking, or smoking, among other things. These occupancies – businesses, schools, daycare facilities, clinics, restaurants, and factories – are where people spend the second most amount of time after their homes. Workplace fire safety should not only include fire prevention but also evacuation planning and occupant accountability. Annual inspection, testing and maintenance of fire protection devices will assure that they work properly when needed.

Fire departments should also assure that closed buildings are properly maintained while unoccupied. If these buildings are protected with fire sprinkler systems, heating systems should be maintained to keep the fire sprinkler systems from freezing. Fire sprinkler systems should be inspected to assure they are operating and not shut down. In addition, fire officials should review winter procedures for fire sprinkler systems. Procedures need to include education on opening the main drain to the fire sprinkler system to drain piping after a fire has been determined to be extinguished by fire crews.

For more information on how fire sprinklers save lives and property, please email me or visit National Fire Sprinkler Association – Wisconsin Chapter, National Fire Sprinkler Association, and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

-Marty King, State Coordinator, NFSA-WI

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