Las Vegas Fire & Rescue will be participating in a number of events during National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13. This year’s theme, “Have 2 Ways Out!” focuses on the importance of fire escape planning and practice. To help people learn about fire safety, all city of Las Vegas fire stations will be open to visitors on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents are invited to visit their neighborhood fire station to learn safety tips.
The history of National Fire Prevention Week has its roots in the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred on Oct. 9, 1871. The fire burned for 27 hours, killed more than 250 people, left more than 100,000 people homeless and destroyed nearly 18,000 buildings. Although the exact cause of the fire has never been determined, one popular legend blames Mrs. Catherine O’Leary’s cow for the blaze after it kicked over a lantern and started a barn on fire. Regardless of how the fire started, it nearly destroyed Chicago. Firefighters and equipment from as far as St. Louis and New York City responded to the blaze.
In 1911, on the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, fire officials from across the country sponsored the first National Fire Prevention Day, advocating an annual observance about fire safety and education. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation and since 1922, National Fire Prevention Week has been observed Sunday through Saturday of the week of Oct. 9. In addition, the president has proclaimed a National Fire Prevention Week every year since 1925. It is the longest running public awareness campaign in the United States.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, which spearheads National Fire Prevention Week, in the United States in 2010:
• One home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds in 2010..
• Most fatal fires kill one or two people. In 2010, 19 home fires killed five or more people.
• In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to 369,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 13,350 civilian injuries and 2,640 civilian deaths.
• Fires caused $6.9 billion in property damage nationwide in 2010.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme concerns escaping from buildings when there is a fire which is also known as evacuation. Smoke and gases are the leading cause of death during a fire in a building. Smoke can fill a building in less than a minute which can overcome a person and cause death in just a few minutes. You must escape as quickly as possible. And you should have two ways out of every room, the primary route which is routinely used and a secondary exit in case the primary route is blocked. It is also important to practice your escape plan on a regular basis. Make sure there are no obstacles which could prevent your escape during a fire such as windows that will not open or locking devices that will not unlock.
Some of the leading causes of burns in Las Vegas include:
Careless smoking, especially in combination with medical oxygen
Combustible items too close to a heat source, including space heaters and water heaters
Cooking fires are one of the leading causes of fires in Las Vegas and the United States, and the leading cause of fire related injuries. Usually, food is left cooking unattended, or people turn on a pan of grease to heat and leave it unattended. Many times people have cooked during the middle of the night and fell asleep waiting for the food to cook. A pan of burning cooking grease produces deadly smoke in just seconds which can be detected by a smoke alarm.
Cooking fires are fully preventable. To prevent them, never leave food cooking on the stove unattended. If a fire starts, don’t panic. Use a pan lid to push the flames back into the pan and smother them, or use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out. Do not use water, flour, baking soda or salt to put out the fire. If you have a fire in a microwave oven or a regular oven, just leave the door shut, shut off the appliance and leave the area. Usually the fire will use up the air inside the compartment and put itself out.
Electrical fires are the second leading cause of fires because of all the electrical equipment found in buildings such as computers, battery chargers, entertainment centers, television set and game systems to name a few. Other electrical devices include washer and dryers, heating equipment, space heaters , water heaters, electric ranges and fans.
Careless smoking remains the leading cause of fatal fires in the United States between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Las Vegas is no exception. There is also a high incidence of people using medical oxygen and trying to smoke at the same time. This is extremely dangerous. Although oxygen itself will not burn, it enhances flames and a lit cigarette can become an inferno within seconds. A number of elderly people in Las Vegas have been seriously burned this way.
Candles should never be left burning unattended. They should be in a non-combustible container. Burning candles have started a number of fires and injured or killed people because of their improper use, especially during the holidays. On average, about 35 candle-related fires occur each day in the United States, about one-third occurring in the bedroom.
How To Prevent Fires
Smoke alarms are your first line of defense against fire. There are two different types of smoke alarms. The most popular and widely used is the ionization smoke alarm. When an item burns, it throws off invisible ions into the atmosphere. These ions are picked up in a chamber in the smoke alarm, activating an alarm when they are detected. Even when there is no visible smoke, the smoke alarm will activate if ions are present. This is why a smoke alarm may activate when you are cooking or you open a heated oven. Even though smoke is not visible, the ions are being released into the air and detected by the ionization smoke alarm. Ions are released in greater quantities during fast moving fires such as kitchen or living room fires.
During slow or smoldering fires, ions are not released as much, but usually there is a tremendous amount of smoke. This is why photoelectric smoke alarms are more effective during a smoldering fire. Inside the smoke alarm is a light chamber that detects changes in light intensity. When smoke passes through the chamber, less light is visible and an alarm is sounded. Although not as popular as the ionization smoke alarm, photoelectric smoke alarms are available at most home improvement centers.
What have become increasingly popular are the combination ionization/photoelectric smoke alarm, which is now available at most home improvement centers in Las Vegas for less than $50. What makes them even more popular is they are battery operated, so they can be easily put up and put into service. You just have to remember to change the battery once a year.
There are many other different types of smoke alarms now available on the market, including one that uses a battery that only has to be replaced once every few years. There is also one that has a carbon monoxide detector built into an ionization smoke alarm.
The normal life expectancy of a smoke alarm is 10 years. After 10 years, they should be replaced.
In newer homes in the Las Vegas Valley, wired-in ionization smoke alarms with a nine volt battery backup are required in the hallway leading to each sleeping area and in each bedroom. One smoke alarm for each level of the home is required by code.
It is the older homes, especially those built prior to 1990, that may be lacking adequate smoke alarm protection. Older codes only required one smoke alarm located in the hallway leading to the bedrooms. Homes built in the 1970s were not even required to have smoke alarms (the smoke alarm became available to the public around 1974.) This is why it is important that people who live in older homes, which may be subject to a higher probability of an incident involving fire, have additional smoke alarms installed in their homes. It is best to have a battery-operated smoke alarm installed in each bedroom, in the hallway leading to the bedrooms and one on any additional floors (such as a basement or downstairs in a two-story home), according to instructions that are found in the smoke alarm package. The average cost of an effective battery-operated ionization smoke alarm is $10. Batteries need to be changed at least once each year.
Here are some things you can do to improve your chances during a fire:
To ensure that people can escape from a fire they should have a fire escape plan and practice it. The more practice, the better. If you have children or senior citizens in your home, it is especially important to have a plan on how to escape (with two ways out of every room) and practice it.
Install and maintain smoke alarms. They have saved countless lives and keep a small fire from getting big. Smoke alarms are available for free (to those who qualify) from Las Vegas Fire & Rescue by calling (702) 229-0031 for more information. Also, install fire extinguishers in your home, auto and work place.
Conduct a safety inspection in your home. Check for frayed wires, minimize the use of extension cords and make sure combustible items are at least three feet from all heat sources such as the water heater, stove, furnace, space heaters and the fireplace. Gasoline should never be used or stored in the home. Keep matches and lighters where children cannot get to them. Properly discard smoking material in the toilet to ensure it is extinguished.
In the past three years, seven people have lost their lives due to fire in the city. In most cases the fire could have been prevented. This is what National Fire Prevention Week is all about, making the community aware of the dangers of fire and how to prevent it.
Firefighters want you to learn about fire safety. That is why they are inviting everyone to visit them at the fire station on Saturday, Oct. 13 (at any city of Las Vegas fire station) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They will show you the equipment they use to put out fires, show you the fire station and will be available to answer any questions you have about fire safety. Fire safety pamphlets will also be available.
For more information contact Las Vegas Fire & Rescue at (702) 383-2888 or visit the website www.lasvegasfire.org.