Monday, October 1, 2007

Fire Prevention Week

by Deborah White

Fire Prevention Week is always the week in October that includes October 8th and 9th in it. Why? Because in 1871 on those days there were two big fires - The Great Chicago Fire and the Great Peshtigo Fire!

Information on those fires can be found at:

The Great Chicago Fire

The Great Peshtigo Fire

You can also find resources for teaching fire prevention and life safety education by going to one of these sites.

National Fire Prevention Association

American Red Cross Masters of Disaster

FEMA for Kids

Scholastic's Fire Prevention Program
Resource #1
Resource #2

Call your local Fire Department! They'll be happy to work with you to teach your students fire prevention and life safety skills.

1 comment:

Ed Latham said...

Great sources for looking at the history of those two fires! This topic of fire prevention brings to mind a story from my childhood that may add another aspect of fire prevention.

My brother and I seemed to eat baby sitters. My father and mother were both very busy running a professional dance studio, so reliable and flexible babysitters were highly sought after. My dad would find "awesome" babysitters and my brother and I would put him or her through "the test". Most of our victims would only last the first 3-4 tests (more specifics in my book). My father was able to find one young lady that was so sweet and polite when dad was around, but when she had us alone...well lets just say she was a great actress. Her basic philosophy was, "Don't mess with me and I will not mess with you... GET IT?" We did not get it at first as we started out with our normal tests. This woman was super woman as she seemed totally impervious to all of our blood pressure increasing antics. Sure there were a few trips to the hospital that week, but she still did not waver and was so easily able to push of her worries away. Towards the end of the week, my brother and I were getting worried that this one had survived longer than any of the others. It was time for drastic measures. We launched into a "We're bored...entertain us or else" campaign. Finally we got her to cave. She tossed us a pack of matches and told us to "go play".
That was not the story that she shared with my father and the nice firemen that showed up less than 4 hours later. Evidently, her story included my brother and I begging her for some matches to "go play" as she repeatedly refused. She claimed that when the phone rang we swiped her matches without her knowledge and proceeded to burn down the entire wooded area behind this heavily populated housing project. Fortunately no one was hurt and no one lost their housing. My brother and I were lucky we were minors (cute ones too). We were in the early elementary years.

I share this story because as adults we have heard the fire safety stuff all our lives and may get sick of hearing that stuff over and over. Evidently, the teachers my brother and I had were not into educating us very well as to what we could have done. There was no fire prevention training or anything that I remember at that early age. Training and education for fire prevention are vital as early as the child can take it and if schools can tie in local firefighters into the process things become so much more effective. I would suggest having students witness the torching of a small shack or simulated apartment with some wax dummies in it. Ok, maybe the wax dummies might be a bit over the top, but the more that kids can see the result and connect the dots to irresponsible "play" with fire, the less these "accidents" will happen.

As the nice firemen were finishing up their two hour visit to our back woods, my brother and I were "invited" to come down to the fire station with my dad. We thought this was great! We got to see all the cool trucks and tools and stuff . It was awesome! Well, until they started showing us large photos in one room that showed various fires that consumed buildings. Beneath each framed photo there was a listing of the number of victims and the names of firefighters lost in defending that blaze. It was very sobering for us. All of the sensations were directly brought into the personal losses in a number of ways and my brother and I were both crying frequently. In the end we were cheered up by meeting the station dog and playing with her (animals can be so healing by the way). An ice cream fest on the way home worked to comfort both my brother and I and as we got home we over heard a discussion from the adults that cheered us up even more. Evidently, our parents decided it was time for another new babysitter.