Fort McCoy News Sept. 23, 2016

Post marks National Fire Prevention Week Oct. 9-15

Oct. 9-15 is the 2016 National Fire Prevention Week.

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began Oct. 8 but continued into and did most of its damage Oct. 9, 1871.

On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (today known as the International Fire Marshals Association), decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should be observed in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention instead of with festivities, according to the National Fire Protection Association website, www.nfpa.org.

Fire graphic

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest-running public health and safety observance on record.

The 2016 National Fire Prevention Week theme, "Don't Wait — Check The Date," provides an ideal opportunity to educate the public about the importance of replacing smoke alarms every 10 years.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1.2 million reported fires in 2014. These fires caused 14,075 civilian injuries, 3,240 civilian deaths, and $11.5 billion dollars in property damage. On average, seven people died in U.S. home fires per day. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries, followed by heating equipment. Smoking is a leading cause of civilian home-fire deaths.

Almost three of five (60 percent) of reported home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half. In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93 percent of the time, while battery-powered alarms operated 79 percent of the time.

When smoke alarms fail to operate, it usually is because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead. Smoke alarms must be tested once a month, the batteries replaced every six months, and smoke alarms replaced every 10 years.

According to a National Fire Protection Association survey, only a third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire-escape plan. Almost three-quarters do have an escape plan; however, more than half never practiced it.

Almost a third (32 percent) of respondents thought they would have at least six minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening. The time available often is less. Only 8 percent said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out.

Fire Chief David Biondi said the Fort McCoy Fire Department is planning several events during Fire Prevention Week 2016, including a South Post Family Housing Safety Campaign, during which firefighters will go door to door with life safety handouts; information booths at the Exchange and McCoy's Community Center; a static equipment display at the Exchange; unannounced postwide fire-evacuation drills; and a visit to the fire station by the Child Development Center, where the children will tour the fire station and eat lunch with the firefighters.

The fire department also will participate in Fort McCoy Safety Day, which will be Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at McCoy's.

Biondi said he encourages everyone to stop by either fire station to take a tour, ask questions, or simply enjoy a cup of coffee. Station 1 is located in building 1680, and Station 2 is located at the Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport.

"We are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," said Biondi. "We are a friendly bunch, enjoy the company, and the coffee pot is always on."

For more information about fire safety at Fort McCoy, call 608-388-4077.

   (Article prepared by the National Fire Prevention Association and Fort McCoy Fire Department.)