Fire Prevention Week: 100 years of fire safety messaging

Exploring the countless opportunities enhance fire safety in your communities

By Susan McKelvey

Fire Prevention Week, the annual public awareness campaign sponsored annually by the NFPA, is here – and it’s a significant one. Oct. 9-15 marks the 100th anniversary of the campaign. While NFPA plans to celebrate the positive impact that Fire Prevention Week has made on the public’s safety from fire over the past 100 years, the milestone anniversary also presents an opportunity to spotlight challenges that remain.

Data tells an important fire safety story

The latest NFPA data shows that there has been a significant decline in the number of fires occurring in U.S. homes over the past few decades, reflecting the positive impact of public fire safety education and initiatives like Fire Prevention Week. However, the nation’s home fire death rate has stagnated in recent years. In fact, people are actually more likely to die in a home fire today than they were in 1980.

This data tells us that while people have gotten much better at preventing home fires from happening, when home fires do occur, they are serious. It also means that there is still much more work to do when it comes to educating the public about the small window of time they have to escape a home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds, and how to use that time wisely to get out as quickly and safely as possible. That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme – “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape” – focuses on the importance of home escape planning and practice.

Spreading the fire safety message

While NFPA is actively working to promote Fire Prevention Week and its escape planning messages on a national level, at its core, Fire Prevention Week is a grassroots campaign that relies on the thousands of fire departments, teachers and other safety advocates who bring it to life in their communities each year.

In support of these local efforts, the official Fire Prevention Week website provides a wealth of free resources and materials that fire departments, safety advocates, teachers and other groups can use as they work to promote the week throughout their communities. Featured on the website is the Fire Prevention Week Toolkit, which offers materials that can be printed and/or downloaded at no cost, including:

  • Proclamations
  • Event flyers
  • Fire safety messaging/talking points
  • Fundraising letters
  • Press Releases
  • Safety tip sheets
  • Lesson plans
  • Age-appropriate activities
  • Fire Prevention Week logos
  • Fire safety action plans
  • Home fire escape grids
  • Family fire safety activity sheets

These resources can be used in multiple ways, such as hosting an open house at a fire station, promoting Fire Prevention Week messages on social media, generating local news coverage, delivering age-appropriate lesson plans to students, presenting at community events, and distributing handouts at grocery stores, libraries and other businesses.

Time and again, NFPA has seen countless examples of fire departments that come up with creative, impactful ways to engage multiple audiences, age groups, and demographics in Fire Prevention Week. In fact, many fire departments use all of October to promote fire safety.

Lauri Volkert, the fire inspector for the Town of Windsor in Windsor, Connecticut, does just that, spreading out Fire Prevention Week activities throughout the month, including a town council proclamation, a town-wide Chili Challenge, a fire department open house, fire drills and fire extinguisher training at local businesses, and visits with all of the town’s students in pre-kindergarten through grade 5 to talk about fire safety. This year, Volker and her team are planning to release a four-part video series on YouTube that focuses on escape plans. Last but not least, she also plans to share escape planning and practice messages through their social media channels.

For fire departments interested in joining an existing program, NFPA and Domino’s team up each year to host a fire safety program that works to ensure that homes have working smoke alarms. Local fire departments can team up with the nearest Domino’s restaurant to implement the program, which provides random smoke alarm checks to customers who place a delivery order. Participation in the program, now in its 15th year, continues to grow, with more than 100 fire departments and Domino’s stores signed on to participate this October.

Your efforts make a difference!

In the end, Fire Prevention Week is an annual success in large part because of the hard work, energy and effort that fire departments and fire safety advocates have dedicated to promoting the campaign and its potentially life-saving messages. These collective efforts help ensure that as many people hear about and benefit from them as possible. And while fire safety challenges remain, the continued decline in the number of home fires nationwide reinforces that everything fire departments do to educate residents truly makes a difference in helping them become safer from fire.

About the Author

Susan McKelvey is the communications manager for the NFPA, a global nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. NFPA is the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week.

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