October is a special month in many ways; it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it includes Christopher Columbus Day and Fire Prevention Week. Fire protection began in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of October 8-10, 1871. The fire burned for parts of three days, killing hundreds, destroying more than 2,000 acres, causing $222 million in property damage, and leaving 100,000 people homeless. Over the years there has been much controversy as to who or what started the fire. One humorous suggested cause is the legend of Mrs. O’Leary and her cow.
“One dark night, when people were in bed,
Mrs. O’ Leary lit a lantern in her shed,
The cow kicked it over, winked its eye, and said,
There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight.”
Despite the number of stories told, real or legendary, all investigators agreed the drought that year contributed to the fire and to the extent of the damage. This year, many areas of the United States are suffering from drought. The American Red Cross states that the most effective way to protect yourself is to identify and remove fire hazards. Senior care services and alert caregivers want to do their part to support Fire Protection Week (FPW) during October 7-13 and Fire Protection Month.
Preparation Is the Beginning of Fire Safety
- Practice fire drills – pretend the fire is real.
- Post escape routes – “Have Two Ways Out” is this year’s theme for FPW.
- Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries.
- Be aware of potential hazards in your home, senior living center, or business. Use correct wattage light bulbs, check electrical cords and plugs for fraying, and don’t run electrical cords under rugs.
- Replace or professionally repair any appliances that spark, smell, or overheat.
- Make sure lamps or night lights are not touching drapes, bedspreads, or other fabrics.
- Be cautious while using electric blankets.
- Do not smoke when oxygen is in use.
- Clean lint filters in clothes dryers after each use.
- Never leave food cooking unattended.
- Check heaters before cold weather sets in and never leave space heaters on and unattended.
The risk of fire is real! Fire safety for the elderly is extremely necessary. Statistics show the elderly run much higher risks of becoming victims of deadly fire. In fact, their risk of dying or suffering a fire related injury is 2.5 times higher than it is for younger folk. Aging affects the physical and mental abilities of the body. While many elderly are in great shape, many have varying degrees of limited mobility, making escape from fire more difficult. Medications may affect the ability to make quick decisions. Economic situations may cause some to use dangerous space heaters, candles, or cooking methods. Others may be unable to pay for necessary home repairs that involve electrical problems. Be responsible, proactive, and a good caregiver in keeping your loved ones safe.
Other areas of safety related to fire prevention:
- Microwave safety
- Grilling safety
- Scald prevention
- Home safety for people with disabilities
- Winter safety
- Smoke alarms for the hearing impaired
- Carbon monoxide safety
Join the fight during October: Support Fire Prevention Month!