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Preventing fires starts with early education

By Brian McGloin | 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B public affairs | Oct. 6, 2010

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Fire Prevention Week is here and the 902nd Civil Engineer Fire Prevention office has events planned to get the word out about this year's theme, "Smoke alarms: a sound you can live with."

During the week, Randolph Fire Emergency officials are scheduled to go to base schools, child care centers and other facilities to spread the word about fire safety and the use of smoke alarms.

"It's highly recommended folks have smoke detectors in their houses. They're very important, they save lives," said Jesus Lopez, 902nd CES fire inspector. "Every room, outside every sleeping area and on every level" of a home should have working smoke alarms.

He said there were essentially two types of smoke detectors. One type is ionization and the other is photoelectric.

Ionization types of smoke alarms respond better to fires with a lot of flames and comparatively little smoke, while photoelectric alarms work better in smoldering fires which produce a lot of smoke.

Mr. Lopez said some new smoke alarms have both technologies.

Smoke alarms should be tested once a month using the "test" button on the unit, and both hard-wired and battery-powered alarms should be replaced if they are more than 10 years old. If the alarm is battery powered, the battery should be replaced when the unit gives the familiar, chirping warning sounds.

The week's events are more than just smoke alarms; they are also about teaching fire safety and what to do during a fire.

"We want children to know what to do if their smoke alarm activates, and also how to prevent fires in their homes by being fire safe," said James Smith, 902nd CES fire inspector. "We provide them with tips to show how to escape from a fire should one occur."

Mr. Smith said they will show adults how to safely use matches, lighters and candles. In addition, they will teach some ways to help children from being hurt or burned should to "stop, drop and roll," which says to quickly drop to the ground and roll around to extinguish flames; and "crawl low and go," which says to crawl low to the floor or ground in a fire since smoke rises.

The Randolph fire house will be open today for station visits and anyone who would like to visit.
Tomorrow, the last day of Fire Prevention Week, Randolph Fire Emergency Service will be at Fort Sam Houston fire station one from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for their open house.

National Fire Protection Association established in 1896 is the nationwide organizer of Fire Prevention Week, in addition to education advocating about fire safety and building codes.

"When we go to do inspections, we look to them," Mr. Lopez said about the NFPA.

The NFPA's Web site said, "In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls."

The nation saw two conflagrations Oct. 8 1871; one was the Great Chicago Fire and the other was the much larger, but nearly forgotten Peshtigo Fire which burned through northwest Wisconsin, taking 16 towns and 1.2 million acres with it. About 2,400 acres burned in the Chicago fire.

Hundreds died in the Chicago fire while more than 1,110 people died in the Peshtigo Fire, which was the most devastating fire in American history.

"Our fire department talks to approximately 1000 students in the various schools in our area on fire safety," said Chuck Gardon, reporter from the Peshtigo Times newspaper, Peshtigo, Wis.

Mr. Gardon is also a Peshtigo fire fighter.

"I believe that the Peshtigo Fire has made all of us more aware of the dangers of fire and how important fire safety is," he said. "Education is the key no matter what age you are."