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National Fire Prevention Week Celebrates 100 Years

This year's Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Fire won't wait. Plan your escape,™" works to educate everyone about simple but important actions to help stay safe from home fires.
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national fire prevention week celebrates 100 years

This week, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW). This year's FPW campaign, “Fire won't wait. Plan your escape,™" works to educate everyone about simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe from home fires.

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of Oct. 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on Oct. 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. The fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed October 9, 1920, the first Fire Prevention Day, calling on the public to learn more about the risks of deadly fires and commemorating the thousands who had lost their lives to these tragedies, according to a White House statement.

“More than a century later, our Nation observes Fire Prevention Week by renewing our commitment to fire safety and preparedness and taking steps to prevent fires in our homes, schools, workplaces, and the great outdoors," said the statement. “We also honor the bravery and heroism of our firefighters, who gear up time and again and rush into harm's way to protect our communities."

Unfortunately, the U.S. Fire Administration saw an alarming trend in fires from 2011 to 2020. In 2020, fire deaths were up almost 24% from where they were in 2011 and damage from fires cost almost $22 billion in 2020—more than 83% higher than what it was in 2011. So far in 2022, 1,625 people have died in house fires.

Only 1 in 3 U.S. households have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan, according to the NFPA. With modern building materials, fires in many homes burn faster than ever. Those inside have as little as two minutes or less to escape a house fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds.

NFPA produces sample social media cards and posts—in English and Spanish—and other resources to highlight home fire safety and Fire Prevention Week. Guidance and resources for both families and businesses include planning your escape, testing fire alarms, creating a meeting place, scheduling check-ups and practicing fire drills.

NFPA is a global nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. Originally formed as the National Association of Local Fire Insurance Agents (NALFIA) in the same year, the Big “I" has also been a long-standing supporter of fire safety, as well.

Despite changing its name from NALFIA to the National Association of Insurance Agents in 1913, the association launched a fire inspection program in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While fires had been a scourge on American homes and businesses, the program helped slash fire losses. The program, which included updating building codes and other safety measures, was adopted by NFPA and folded into its program in 1925.

Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.

Thursday, October 27, 2022
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