‘Have 2 Ways Out’ was the theme of this year’s National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week promoting the importance of fire escape planning and practice.
According to Lt. Luke Howieson, City of DeKalb Fire Prevention Officer, one in three people will have a fire event in their lifetime.
“The reality is that when fire strikes, your place could be engulfed in smoke and flames in just a few minutes,” he said. “It’s important to plan ahead and be prepared.”
The NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week website instructs people to “think fast and get out quickly when the smoke alarm sounds. What if your first escape route is blocked by smoke or flames? That’s why having two ways out is such a key part of your plan.”
Karl Froehlich, a 22-year veteran of the DeKalb Fire Department, is NIU’s fire safety officer. He said that the NFPA’s recommendation to plan ahead and have two ways out is sound advice. However, it is equally important to take precautions to prevent fires.
“People cause fires,” Froelich said. “It’s important to keep combustibles away from hot things.”
Froehlich noted the importance of being present while cooking and attending to lit candles.
“Although we don’t allow cooking or smoking in the residence halls, these are the top two causes of accidental fires, followed by heating and candles,” he explained. “Space heaters and candles are prohibited in residence halls as well for the very same reasons. Students living off campus need to be particularly aware of these dangers.”
According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments responded to 369,500 home structure fires in 2010. These fires caused 13,350 civilian injuries, 2,640 civilian deaths, and $6.9 billion in direct damage.
First conceived by the International Fire Marshals Association as Fire Prevention Day during the Woodrow Wilson presidency, National Fire Prevention Week has been held annually in conjunction with the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 since 1925.