By Jim Newell
Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 7-13 and the Orion Township Fire Department wants to keep residents safe by educating them on simple techniques to keep their families safe in the event of a home fire.
The origins of Fire Prevention Week – always the second full week of October – date back to the Great Chicago Fire, said Lt. Chris Hagan, a firefighter and public education coordinator for the department.
The Great Chicago Fire burned from Sunday, Oct. 8, to Tuesday, Oct. 10, 1871 and killed up to 300 people, destroyed about 3.3 square miles of Chicago and left more than 100,000 residents homeless.
“From then on, (firefighters) wanted to dedicate one week to informing the public about the dangers of fire and everyday practices to prevent fire,” Hagan said. “It’s really kind of grown into an opportunity to extend our hand to the public and really engage with the public in a way that we wouldn’t necessarily see without answering a 911 call.”
For some reason, Michigan is particularly susceptible to home fires.
“Michigan has one of the highest fire death rates in the country. At the end of September, Michigan had almost 100 percent of the fire deaths that we had in 2017,” Hagan said.
The fire department advises three practices that residents can do to help mitigate a catastrophe in the event of a fire in their home.
1. Make sure smoke alarms are functioning.
“If it’s older than 10 years old we recommended that people replace it. Smoke alarms really only have a good 10-year lifespan. A lot of the newer smoke alarms have 10-year batteries in them, so all you have to do is test them, you don’t have to replace any batteries. But if you have a conventional 9-volt battery change those out every six months,” Hagan said.
2. Sleep with your bedroom doors closed: “Close before you Doze.”
“All parents and children, the young and old, should be sleeping with their door closed. With the door open you allow, where ever that fire starts, you allow that fire and smoke to travel in that direction. Even the cheapest hollow-core door will be able to withstand a good amount of fire to give you that extra time to get out of your house,” Hagan said.
Approximately 50 years ago, people had about 17 minutes to get out of their homes once the fire started: now that number is down to three minutes. “That’s due in part to the materials, the synthetic plastics in everything,” Hagan said.
3. Practice fire drills.
“I have a big message for parents: practice at-home fire drills. In the several years I’ve done school events nearly 100 percent of children participate in fire drills. But only 20 percent or less participate in at-home fire drills,” Hagan said. “Most of our fires here in Orion Twp. are in the residential sector.”
Hagan advises parents practice fire safety techniques and have an escape plan. Tell children what they should do in the event of a fire, how to get out of the house and where to meet outside once they are out of the home. Have a meeting place so that everyone – including firefighters who arrive on the scene – know if everyone is out of the house.
“Stay calm, stay together, get out, make sure everybody is out of the house and have a meeting place,” Hagan said.
Parents or anyone who has a group of children – like a scout or church group – wants to learn more or should contact the fire department.
“If parents have any questions, the fire department can offer ample information. All they have to do is call us if they want a home fire safety inspection; if anyone wants the fire department to come and talk to a group of children; if anyone, or any group, wants to tour a fire station contact the fire department administration line,” Hagan said.
Contact the Orion Twp. Fire Department at 248-391-0304 ext. 2000.
Anyone interested in CPR instruction or business owners looking who need an inspection can also call the administration phone number.