Spreading the word through FPW
NFPA Journal®, September/October 2006
One of the most important ways that we advance our safety mission at NFPA is through our public education programs. We have always believed that by going directly to the public with practical advice on how to live more safely we prevent needless injuries and death by fire and other hazards.
A review of fire data show how important these public education programs continue to be. The data also show that the only way the we can hope to significantly reduce deaths and injuries from fire is through programs that effectively provide people with the information they need to assume personal responsibility for their safety and the their family’s safety.
Eighty percent of all fire fatalities occur in the home, and if we want to succeed in our goal to substantially reduce or eliminate those deaths and injuries we must focus more of our effort on those daily activities that are causing them.
For more than 85 years, NFPA has been the sponsor of Fire Prevention Week established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 that killed more than 250 people. Although the official week encompasses the October 9 anniversary of the Chicago Fire, fire service across the country use the entire month of October to visit schools, hold open houses and create other events to share key fire safety information with their communities.
FPW is a great opportunity to reach a large number of people and to have an immediate impact on their ability to improve their own safety. This year the theme of FPW has tremendous potential to do just that. The theme is: Prevent Cooking Fires – Watch What You Heat.
Cooking is the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Home cooking fires kill hundreds of Americans, injure thousands more and account for more than half a billion dollars in property losses each year. But many of these fires can be easily prevented. For example, the most recent research on cooking fires shows that the leading cause of cooking fires is unattended cooking. The phone rings, someone comes to the door, a child cries and you simply step away. It only takes an instant for cooking oil to catch fire.
If we can get people to remember to stand by their pan when frying, keep kids and combustibles away from the cook top and keep a lid handy in case there is a fire, we can make a difference. Almost everyone can relate to this year’s theme. Almost everyone has a story of an instance when they had a cooking fire or nearly had one. This makes our public education message that much easier. It allows us to impart simple, information which will hopefully change behaviors.
As in year’s past, NFPA has put together lots of helpful information related to the theme as well as other fire safety information. This can all be found on our website. We are also reaching out in new and exciting ways to spread our message.
For the first time, Sparky the Fire Dog is traveling to other child oriented websites with a safety message directed at younger audiences. In addition, we are working with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, to put our fire prevention message in the hands of millions of students and their teachers this fall. We are also capitalizing on the theme of cooking to reach out not only to the general media but to food and cooking related outlets as well.
While the theme may be cooking related, FPW is an opportunity to talk about other critical ways to reduce fires and related injuries in the home. NFPA continues to be a vocal advocate for working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers in homes. And those messages can not be heard too often. Although surveys reveal that almost 96% of homes have at least one smoke alarm, we must continue our efforts and education to see the percentage of homes protected by sprinklers get closer to that number. Automatic fire sprinklers and smoke alarms together cut the risk of dying in a home fire by 82 percent when compared to having neither.
Overall the number of home structure fires has declined over the years thanks in part to more stringent standards, the use of smoke alarms and yes, public education. NFPA is proud of its long history in developing and disseminating fire and life safety information and its impact on reducing fires. But there is more to do. FPW is another chance to spread the word and move the numbers even further down…. Especially in the kitchen!