We are in the midst of Fire Prevention Week, an annual observance of fire safety that was originally started as a commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Since then, October has become Fire Prevention Month, and the second week of the month observed as Fire Prevention Week.
The message every year is basically the same Learn Not To Burn. Educational efforts are directed not only at young children, but also to adults as a reminder of the little things that all of us can do to prevent fires and the resulting damage and potential loss of life.
Educational efforts include field trips for youth, who are often able to visit the local fire house and look at the shiny engines, see a firefighter's protective gear, and perhaps even have a chance to handle the nozzle and feel the power of water as it sprays from a fire hose.
Youth also learn the basics of fire prevention, and lessons on self-protection from fire, such as the traditional "Stop-Drop and Roll." Children are also taught the importance of knowing how to get out of their home in case of a fire, and that's where friendly reminders for parents and adults comes into play.
Every year, countless lives are lost in fires because occupants of a home are overcome by smoke as they sleep when a fire breaks out. News reports are always quick to quote a firefighter in such a case "A smoke detector would have given them a chance to get out."
But how many of us have working smoke detectors in our homes at this moment? If you have a detector, when is the last time you checked it for proper operation? Does your detector have a battery in it? Or did you forget to put the battery back in after you burned that last batch of popcorn?
The old rule of thumb for changing batteries in smoke and fire detectors is twice a year, when the time change takes place. Perhaps a better time would be during Fire Prevention Week, and then at the start of the Spring months in April.
The cost of a couple of nine-volt batteries is pretty insignificant when it comes to the lives of you and your family, isn't it?
And, we would be remiss if we did not take the opportunity to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to those who choose to serve their neighbors as volunteer firefighters. Without their dedication to train and respond when called, our safety from fire would be greatly reduced.
Being a firefighter is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world - while people run from flames, firefighters run towards the flames, to do battle with the glowing monster that seems to have a life of its' own as it consumes homes, fields and other properties.
Our volunteer firefighters train, practice, and then hope that they don't need to use their skills, but when they are called, they leave their own homes, jobs and families behind to answer a call for help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days and nights a year.
If you get the opportunity, tell a firefighter 'Thank You' for what they do.