Friday, September 6, 2013
Fire Prevention Week is approaching and is a time when fire departments open their doors a bit wider than usual. They host open houses, pancake breakfasts, conduct fire station tours, and encourage the local press to publish home safety tips. Each year we all hear about Home Escape Plans, the value of smoke detectors in the home, and plenty of healthy doses of "Stop, Drop and Roll". All good things to be sure, which continue to remind us all to be safe.
Often overlooked each year during this week, ironically, are the men and women who spend the rest of the year also saving lives by preventing fires and serious burn injuries as their full-time job. These are the Fire Prevention Officers and Fire Inspectors – including full-time, part-time and volunteer – that become the watchdogs of safe practices and construction as well as identifying potential fire hazards at home and at work.
Business owners may sometimes cringe at the image of the white hat and clipboard walking through the plant or office making checkmarks here and there, but never realize that for decades that they've already been the beneficiary of their labors. Now well into the 21st century, most commercial buildings are either protected by sprinklers or built under guidelines that significantly reduce the spread of a fire from one business to another by protecting the careful tenants from the careless tenants. By enforcing a national Life Safety Code, occupants know where to go to escape a fire, where to find an extinguisher, or are assured that there are enough exits to handle everybody. Storage of volatile materials is restricted and exposure to others safely limited or prevented through the enforcement of established fire codes.
Many school districts, rather than merely accommodating what used to be an intrusive invasion into lesson plans once a year, now incorporate fire and burn prevention lessons and activities into the curriculum for the year, partnering especially during this week with local Fire Departments.
Fire inspectors seek out and identify hazards to people and property, and by occasionally issuing those irritating notices of items that need to be corrected such as exposed wiring, openings that can allow fire to travel to other parts of the building, or merely blocked emergency exits, have saved countless civilian and firefighter lives by making sure most fires don't happen in the first place.
They're overlooked most of the time during Fire Prevention Week as visitors tour the fire stations ringing the engine bell and watching demonstrations, all of which are both fun and educational of course, but rarely are acknowledged as the life savers they really are.
Next time you see a Fire Inspector doing his or her job, give them a hug, or even just a big smile, and say thanks.
They deserve it throughout the entire year.