By Judy Comoletti
NFPA public education assistant vice president
Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. In fact, the president of the United States has signed a proclamation declaring a national observance since 1925. It has been celebrated since 1922 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. Popular legend attributes the fire to Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lamp, setting the barn and then the whole city on fire. However, there is no proof that the cow started the fire or that Mrs. O'Leary was in the barn.
NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 85 years and this year the theme focuses on preventing home fires. Everything you need for a successful FPW campaign is just a click away at Firepreventionweek.org
Here are our top 10 ideas from our public education division for a successful week:
1. Hang the official FPW banner outside your fire station. If you have more than one banner, other good locations are town/city hall, hospitals, schools, busy intersections or a mall. Have an official signing of the banner with the fire chief, mayor and other elected officials. This is a great photo opportunity and gets buy-in for fire prevention.
2. NFPA is asking kids and families to practice their home fire escape plans and participate in The Great American Fire Drill. How can departments get involved? Why not hold a Great American Fire Drill party? To make this activity work, you will need to have lots of teachers on board as well as the participation of members of your fire department. It will take some planning, but it can be great. The objective is to get local families to practice their escape plan and be recognized for doing so. If families make a plan and never practice, they aren’t really safe; this activity can help!
3. Communities love open houses and what better time to have one than during Fire Prevention Week. While planning your open house, why not include some fun learning stations for kids and families. Station ideas include sound the smoke alarm, get low and go under smoke; and firefighters — wear funny stuff. For more ideas, check out our How-to Guides on Firepreventionweek.org.
4. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper promoting the importance of fire prevention. We have made it easy for you with fill-in-the blank letters and press releases on Firepreventionweek.org.
5. Use the trivia questions from NFPA's Remembering When™: A Fire and Falls Prevention Program for older adults on a local radio show. Callers can answer questions for prizes. Or, use the questions at a community event; matching local officials against each other in a fire-safety challenge.
6. Download the Fire Prevention Week quiz and distribute throughout the community. Residents completing the quiz can return it to the fire department, city/town hall or at a fire safety exhibit held at a fall festival. Hold a drawing and award prizes. Contact local merchants for prizes.
7. Make a statement around your community with the official Fire Prevention Week logo and poster. Bus depots and billboards are a great place to get the message out. Put the poster up at libraries, supermarkets and post offices. Use the posters in an old fashion Fire Prevention Week parade. Add a kazoo band for fun entertainment.
8. Massages with messages. Offer free chair massages and blood pressure checks for older adults that visit your open house. Hand out smoke alarms, night lights, oven mitts or safety brochures.
9. Have a neighborhood home hazards hunt. Team up with neighbors to identify fire hazards in the home. Neighbors can move from one home to another identifying and fixing fire hazards. Make this a progressive party with appetizers at one home, burgers at the next and dessert at the final home.
10. Get a group of kids together to sing the Be S.A.F.E. song found on Firepreventionweek.org. Make this a community-wide event — invite residents to team up singing the song. Videotape the performances and show them on your local cable access channel, at a Fire Prevention Week talent show, or a community movie night.
Let's get back to community-wide activities that are fun and give residents a sense of pride while learning about fire safety. Fire Prevention Week 2008 is your time to energize your community — get out and get involved.