National Fire Prevention Week

by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Every October a week is set aside to remind people about fire safety. National Fire Prevention Week is observed in both the United States and Canada from Sunday to Saturday in which October 9th falls. The first Presidential proclamation of Fire Prevention Week was made back in 1925 by President Calvin Coolidge. Now it is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that continues to be the international sponsor of the week.

Safety: It is natural that we think of safety precautions in our own family, but how many of us remember to cover these pointers when we have a baby sitter watching our children? We go out and leave our most precious possessions, our children, in the hands of a sitter and then depend on that person to know what to do in a fire emergency. Or how often have we thought about reviewing fire safety pointers with overnight guests or relatives that come to visit? Grandparents often come in for the holidays and may not be totally familiar with our homes, yet are expected to react to a life threatening experience in our absence. How often have we left grandparents in charge while we are out for the evening, catching up on last minute holiday preparations? The following tips should be stressed and reviewed with any persons we leave in charge of our home and watching the children. Or for that matter any person coming into our home to care for an elderly parent or relative. A fire can occur day or night and in the dark, it is more difficult to find a way to flee a burning house. Make sure your guests or sitters know where flash lights are kept. Better yet, keep them in view at all times and not hidden in a closet or cluttered kitchen drawer.

Escape route: After leaving emergency contact telephone numbers, your cell number and where you can be reached, show the baby-sitter which is the quickest and easiest way to exit your house. Of course, the route should be away from the fire area, but consider whether a window or door is the easiest way out. If there are several locks on the door or a latch that sometimes sticks or has a special way of turning to open it, review these methods with your sitter. If your windows have unusual security latches on them, demonstrate how they work. Many families have established a “place to meet” outside of the house, if they ever had to escape during a fire. Tell the sitter where this spot is and make sure the children are reminded of this place, if they are old enough to understand this concept. If this is the first time you have used this baby-sitter, give a tour of your whole house, making note of possible escape routes along the way. Some basements do not have an easy access to the outside, so be sure to share this information if yours is so designed.

Children: If you have left instructions for your sitter to prepare dinner or serve the children a snack, show how your stove or oven works. Most homes have microwave ovens, but all of them work slightly different from each other. Explain how yours operates and be sure to have microwave dishes nearby to warm up the meals or snack. Make it clear the children are not to use the stove, oven or microwave on their own. Explain to the sitter that you expect the children to be checked on, even though they may be sleeping for a while in their beds. If the sitter is watching television and not aware that the children have gotten up and perhaps wandered into another room, there could be a chance they are doing something dangerous. Make sure matches or cigarette lighters are not left out where a young child can discover them in a parent’s bedroom, den or family room. Request that the sitter not smoke in your home, if this is your preference. After all, a baby-sitter could fall asleep on the sofa during a late evening, trying to stay awake while on the job minding your children.

Hasty Exit: The most important rule of all is to be explicit about the fact you expect the first consideration in a fire is to get the children out of the house. Tell the sitter not to worry about pets, possessions or trying to put the fire out. First evacuate, then the fire department can be called from neighbors or from a cell phone, outside of the burning structure. Make sure your baby-sitter knows the address of your house, including the house number and street address. Remember, this sitter may have come to you through a recommendation, and been hired on the telephone. If you have picked up the person in your car, they may not even know the exact house number they are working at! Leave your full address and telephone number posted by the telephone at all times. This information will not only serve the occasional baby-sitter, but also be helpful when older relatives are visiting and/or your own children need to call for help.

For more information about fire safety or prevention, visit your local fire station and ask for these complimentary brochures. Or you can visit the National Fire Protection Association on line at and also