Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871. There are many theories as to how the fire erupted. The most popular theory is that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the entire city on fire.

Since 1922, fire prevention week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. Every year a new theme is chosen to promote throughout fire prevention week. “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” is this year’s theme. This year’s theme drives home the importance of working smoke alarms in every home. A working smoke alarm provides early detection of fire and just may provide the needed time to safely escape a fire in the home. Place at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home, preferably near sleeping rooms. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries should be replaced at least once each year. Working smoke alarms expire 10 years after the manufacture date, so check the date each time you change batteries. This also includes hard-wired smoke alarms. In addition to working smoke alarms, every home should create and practice a home fire escape plan.

Tips for Fire Escape Planning from the Columbus Fire Department:

  • Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
  • Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
  • Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
  • Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
  • Close doors behind you as you leave — this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
  • Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.