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Editorial: Take time to be prepared

The paper you hold in your hands, highly flammable as it may be, was printed during a week that gets altogether too little recognition: Fire Prevention Week.

Given October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Fair Trade Month and, of course, National Squirrel Awareness Month (you thought we were going to forget it, didn’t you?), it is understandable this observance of fire safety is often unnoticed. Yet it remains an important issue for every single family, everywhere.

Fire is one of those disasters you never think will happen to you, but is still startlingly common even in this safer day and age. In 2010, there were 369,500 structure fires reported in the United States that caused the deaths of 2,640 people, not including firefighters. That works out to a home or structure fire every 85 seconds in this country.

You might think the very young might be at extreme risk when it comes to fire, but it turns out the elderly are disproportionately more likely to die in a fire than any other age group. Despite being less than 10 percent of the population, seniors over 70 account for a full third of all fire deaths.

These are sobering thoughts, but what is perhaps more encouraging is how effective proper planning can be in mitigating the very worst disasters — and how easy it really is to be prepared. A full 62 percent of home fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms — test your alarms regularly and make sure the batteries get changed twice a year. Smoking materials were the most common source of home fires resulting in a death — don’t smoke in bed or even better, indoors. One-third of Americans with an escape plan said they figure they would have six minutes before a fire becomes life threatening, while the actual time is much less — develop not just a fire plan with your family, but a realistic one that places life over property.

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