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Rising Fire Death Rates Underscore Need for Fire Prevention Week Focus

Anniversaries are an important part of life. Whether personal, professional, or of historical importance, celebrating a milestone in our lives reminds us of the things that matter most to us. For NFPA, the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week (FPW) this year is particularly significant and gives us pause for reflection on the work we have done over the last century to help educate people about the leading risks to home fires and ways they can better protect themselves and those they love.

Since 1922, FPW has been observed annually during the week of October 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire. Every U.S. president since 1925 has signed a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week, making it the longest running public health observance on record.

At the heart of this annual week-long campaign are the thousands of fire departments, fire and life safety educators, teachers, and other safety advocates who lead the effort to help prevent loss from fire. NFPA statistics show a significant decline in the number of fires occurring in U.S. homes over the past few decades and there is no doubt the work done in support of FPW and throughout the year has played a large part in this progress.

But while the numbers tell us we have made great strides in teaching people how to prevent home fires from happening, we must also view this 100-year milestone as a key opportunity to be forthcoming and pragmatic about what more we can and must do to help save lives in the current fire environment. The Fire Prevention Week 2022 theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”, was chosen with this philosophy in mind. It is a true reflection of where we are today and the challenges we still face.

Yes, we are seeing fewer fires in the U.S., but a troubling fact has emerged. According to the newly released NFPA “Fire Loss in the U.S.” report, we are witnessing the highest number of home fire deaths in the U.S. since 2007. The statistics tell us that if a fire is reported in your home, you are more likely to die today than you were 40 years ago. The way homes are built, and the make-up of the contents inside our residences contribute to hotter, fast-moving fires. Occupants today have as little as two minutes to escape once the smoke alarm sounds, compared to seven to 10 minutes decades earlier.

Home is where we all feel safest, yet 74 percent of all U.S. fire deaths occur in households. Imagine if one day soon we could turn this statement on its head and say, “Home is where we are the safest.” I know this is what we all aspire to achieve. But to do so requires expanded collaboration and more actionable education if we want to close the gap on the fire problem.

So, in honor of the centennial of FPW let us rededicate ourselves to impactful fire safety education, combat complacency, and help make the world a safer place. We encourage you to share critical home fire safety messages with your communities the week of October 9 – 15 and take advantage of the many materials and resources available on our FPW website.

It’s a Big World. Let’s Protect it Together.®

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Jim Pauley
President & CEO of NFPA

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