October 3 – 9, 2021 was the 99th anniversary of the National Fire Prevention Week. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has been celebrating a week in October to highlight fire prevention for 99 years. Ask any Chicagoan and they can tell you why the dates are so important. One hundred fifty years ago, during October 8 – 11, 1871, a conflagration raced through Chicago, taking over 200 lives and leaving more than 100,000 people homeless. You can read more about it here: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/great-chicago-fire-begins.
Whether you believe that the fire started when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern, or that a piece of a comet fell to earth (another interesting hypothesis), the fact remains that dry weather and a city of structures made from wood contributed to the tragic fire. We can’t prevent dry conditions or the composition of some buildings, but we can do other things to prevent fires.
Here’s a few quick tips, good for work and for home:
1. Heating sources are a leading cause of fires with an average of 48,530 annually, according to the NFPA.
At work: If you are one of the many who bring space heaters into work, make sure it is Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed. If it is not, it might be unsafe. Use a unit with tip-over protection. Keep it somewhere that has good ventilation. SCM highly recommends that the unit have a timer that shuts the unit off at night.
At home: If you use a fireplace, have the chimney professionally inspected annually. Make sure the spark arrester at the top of the chimney is in good condition. And keep a screen in front of it to prevent embers and sparks from flying out. If your furnace has screens, make sure they are clean and not clogged.
2. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires. Here are some prevention tips:
At work: If you have electrical food warmers at your desk, use them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. When using the microwave, make sure your fancy favorite coffee mug does not have metal in the designs. Check the wiring on all appliances to make sure it’s in good condition. Unplug all heating devices when not in use.
At home: Stay alert! Don’t try to use a stovetop if you are too tired or have been drinking alcohol. Don’t leave the kitchen while cooking, even if it is just for a minute. Use a timer to remind you when food should be ready. And keep paper towels, dish towels, and things that can catch fire away from burners.
3. Electrical fires can be devastating. Follow these prevention tips:
At work and at home: Resist the temptation to use extension cords in place of fixed wiring. Extension cords are to be used for temporary jobs. Make sure the multi-plug adapters are part of a fused power strip. Plug them directly into an approved receptacle or outlet. Don’t plug one extension cord into another, commonly called a daisy chain. And don’t string them across doorways or aisles where the cord could be damaged, or it could be a trip hazard.
4. Candles are in the top five fire hazards. With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important to remind you of the following:
At work and at home: When choosing to use candles, use the flameless, battery powered ones when possible. They are much safer. Don’t use candles with flames near things that can burn, like crepe paper, fall leaves, and pine boughs. And either turn them off or blow them out when you are done using them, like at the end of the day. Do not leave them burning, providing a potential ignition source.
Paul Gantt, SCM President, and retired fire chief officer, always reminds us that there is no glory fighting a fire that could have been prevented. Celebrate Fire Prevention Week’s 99th anniversary by not having a fire.