Fire On My Mind
A fire educator's daycare adventure, and a heads up on Fire Prevention Week
NFPA Journal, July/August 2010
I sometimes forget that the average person isn’t always thinking about fire hazards 24 hours a day like I am. Okay, maybe not 24 hours a day, but pretty close. When you do fire safety education day in and day out, it becomes second nature.
As soon as I sit down in a restaurant, for example, I look for the closest exits (two, to be exact), and when traveling, I refuse to stay in a hotel that isn’t fully sprinklered. When looking for preschools for my eldest a few years back, I am almost positive I was the only mom who asked what their fire escape plan was and if they had sprinklers in the building. It was no accident that the school I chose was across the street from a fire station.
As I write this, I realize just how crazy I sound. That being said, you can imagine my reaction when I brought my 2½-year-old son to daycare last month and saw tin foil covering the smoke alarm in the hallway between the kitchen and the living room. When I questioned my son’s daycare provider about it, she simply said, "Oh that. When we cook, the alarm goes off, so I covered it with tin foil." She looked completely shocked when I explained that this would affect how the smoke alarm worked and that, by doing this, she put all the children in the home, and herself, in danger.
"What am I supposed to do, then, just have it go off every time I cook?" she asked.
I told her she could buy a smoke alarm with a hush button that reduces the alarm’s sensitivity for a short period of time. "That way you can do your cooking and not disable your alarm in any way," I said.
"Wow," she said. "I had no idea that those even existed. I’ll go get one this weekend."
I told her what a great idea that was as I pulled the tin foil off the smoke alarm. I feel I should point out that she is wonderful with kids. She is very particular about having a completely childproof home and giving the kids healthy foods, and there isn’t an inch of skin not slathered with sunscreen when they go outside. Fire safety, however, didn’t even cross her mind.
Being in "the business," it is easy to forget that other people don’t know what we know about fire safety, and how easy it is to keep their families safe from fire hazards.
NFPA launched its largest yearly education campaign, Fire Prevention Week (FPW), in June. Fire Prevention Week 2010, the theme of which is "Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with!", focuses on the importance of smoke alarms. Simply put, smoke alarms save lives. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes that have no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
Over the next few months, I encourage you to take advantage of the free resources NFPA provides to educate your community on properly installing and maintaining smoke alarms. Our website, www.firepreventionweek.org, will provide you with everything you need for a comprehensive campaign.
Throughout October, make it your priority to share your expertise and knowledge with friends, family, and your community. Wouldn’t it be amazing if, for even a short period of time, fire safety was on everyone’s mind?
Amy Lebeau is communications manager for NFPA's Public Education Division.