National Fire Safety Month: Don’t Wait- Check the Date

Maddi Wilcox

More stories from Maddi Wilcox


What started as just one week to commemorate those we lost in the Great Chicago Fire, has evolved into the whole month of October. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) along with firefighters around the nation, work to spread information to the public about fire safety. Throughout the month of October and part of November, firefighters travel to schools, businesses and large corporations informing them about fire safety.

Each year, there is a different theme for educating the public on fire safety. This year’s theme is “Don’t wait- check the date”, informing the public to make sure they know when to replace their smoke alarms. Fire Marshals are trying to enforce the idea that aside from checking them every month, the alarms must be replaced every 10 years. According to the NFPA, the risk of household deaths by fire is cut in half with the use of a working smoke alarm.

When talking to businesses and adults it’s all based on general fire safety. During these presentations firefighters discuss fire drills and evacuation plans as well as giving them guidelines for proper emergency exit strategies. Since this year’s theme revolves around smoke alarms, adults are taught the proper way to check their alarms and how to replace them.

“Having properly working smoke alarms are the cheapest life insurance you can buy,” Fire Specialist Bill Zatopek said. “It’s one of the safest things you can do for your family and your home.”

To properly check your alarm, there is a test button on the back that you can press and hold to briefly activate it. The new Austin fire code requires an alarm in each bedroom as well as one on each level of your home.

“We also do a smoke alarm drive,” Zatopek says, “that consists of us canvassing a neighbourhood going door to door offering free smoke alarm installation.”

For free smoke alarms and in-home installation, call the city of austin fire department at (512) 974-0130.

“With elementary kids we talk about safety within the home and things they can do specifically to ensure the safety of themselves and their homes.” Zatopek said.

According to him the most important things elementary school kids shoulds know is their home address and that 911 is the first number you should call in the case of an emergency. Kids, along with the other people in their household, should plan an exit strategy in case of a fire in their own home and to have a meeting place outside.

“One thing we also teach kids is the phrase ‘get low and go’, so they learn the importance of staying low to the ground in order to avoid the effects of smoke on your lungs.” Zatopek said.

During these presentations a fire safety trailer is brought in that displays a kitchen and bedroom setting with an interactive fire simulation that works with a digital fire extinguisher to teach the kids how to put out a fire. In the simulation, there is a heated door that teaches the kids caution when devising exit strategies if there is ever a fire in your home. Firefighters going to schools will also dress in their full gear as well as let the kids try it on so they get familiar with seeing them with their equipment.

According to the NFPA more that half of all fires in the United States start in the kitchen when cooking is left unattended along with careless smoking inside of the house.

“Keeping your kitchen clean and in proper working condition can prevent the majority of fires in the U.S.,” Zatopek said. “It is important that people know how to keep themselves and their homes safe.”