Fire Prevention Week provides education to area children

By Lesley Hughes
star staff

  A fire occurs in a structure every 61 seconds, and a residential fire occurs every 79 seconds. A civilian is injured from a fire every 29 minutes, while a fire death happens every 134 minutes. National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 3-9, works across the country to educate civilians about fire prevention with the slogan, "It's Fire Prevention Week: Test Your Smoke Alarms."
  The city of Elizabethton Fire Department recently educated young children about fire prevention and basic fire safety tips at the Carter County/Elizabethton Public Library. Children ages 2-6 were told about the dangers of playing with matches and lighters, the importance of having working smoke detectors, and planning an escape route and meeting place with family members.
  City of Elizabethton Fire Department Fire Marshal Barry Carrier said the entire month of October is planned with events and programs. Besides teaching public education programs at the library, students at local schools have the opportunity to tour the fire department.
  "We are also involved with the Fire Pup Program, a non-profit organization that sends materials to local businesses for donations to purchase fire prevention education materials." Carrier added the educational materials are given to local schools for distributing to students.
  The Fire Department also observes fire drills at the city of Elizabethton schools to provide information to principals, teachers, and students. "The schools have made improvements over the last 2-3 years. The schools are doing a great job." Teachers and principals now have radios to communicate. Carrier stressed the importance of the principal having accountability for all students.
  "The first question we ask is, 'Are all the students out of the building,'" Carrier said. Depending on the answer to this question the strategy and plan the fire department will have for battling the fire is determined.
  Another educational program for students is a statewide poster contest. Students in each grade design posters depicting October as National Fire Prevention Month. The principal selects winners for each grade and forwards the posters to Carrier. He then separates grades 1-5 and grades 6-12 into two groups. He selects a winner to be judged in Nashville at the state fire office. If chosen, the winner will receive a trip to Nashville to accept an award. The statewide winner will be selected at the end of November.
  The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored Fire Prevention Week each year since 1922. "Testing smoke alarms may sound like basic advice, but this lesson can save lives. All too often the presence of a working smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death. But despite the fact that smoke alarms are now widely popular, roughly 70 percent of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms," according to the NFPA.
  Every 20 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the nation. Since the 1970s, when smoke alarms first became widely available to households in the United States, the home fire death rate has been reduced by half. Nearly 95 percent of homes in the U.S. have at least one smoke alarm, but more than half of home fire deaths result from fires in the 5 percent of homes with no smoke alarms.
  Smoke alarms that are 10 years old have a 30 percent chance of failing to work properly and should be replaced, according to NFPA statistics. The association recommends installing fire alarms on every level of your home, including in the basement, making sure that there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area. "Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts, where drafts might interfere with their operation. Test your smoke alarms once a month. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm once a year, as soon as the alarm 'chirps' warning that the battery is low. Replace your alarm every 10 years.