Derek Fox


Observer Columnist

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “more than 1.3 million fires were reported by fire departments in 2018, resulting in an estimated 3,655 civilian deaths and 15,200 injuries. 

“Of these, 499,000 occurred in structures. Of these structure fires that occurred in 2018, 363,000, or 73 percent, occurred in home structures, which include one- and two-family homes, manufactured homes, and apartments. This was an increase of 2 percent over 2017.” 

As we read these statistics, we can’t help but think, what are some steps that we can take to help prevent these numbers from rising? 

This year, Fire Prevention Week falls during the week of Oct. 6-12. The week is designed to remind us of the fire-safety steps that we can take. A house fire can happen at any time of the year, but as we reach the fall and winter months, the chances of a house fire increase. 

The NFPA has a list of the “Top 10 fire safety tips” that I thought would be beneficial to share with readers:  

Watch Your Cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove. If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer.

Give Space Heaters Space. Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Smoke Outside. Ask smokers to smoke outside. Have sturdy, deep ashtrays for smokers.

Keep Matches and Lighters Out of Reach. Keep matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children, preferably in a cabinet with a child lock. 

Inspect Electrical Cords. Replace cords that are cracked, damaged, have broken plugs, or loose connections.

Be Careful When Using Candles. Keep candles at least one foot from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Have A Home Fire Escape Plan. Make a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year.

Install Smoke Alarms. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Interconnect smoke alarms throughout the home.

Test Smoke Alarms. Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace conventional batteries once a year or when the alarm “chirps” to tell you the battery is low. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.

Install Sprinklers. If you are building or remodeling your home, install residential fire sprinklers. Sprinklers can contain and may even extinguish a fire in less time that it would take the fire department to arrive. 

I encourage you to look at your home. Test your smoke alarms and look around for potential fire hazards that you can eliminate. We should always try our best to prevent from having to make that emergency phone call. Luckily, most of us live in towns that have a dedicated group of volunteers that can respond on a moment’s notice in case of an emergency. 

Derek Fox is a DeWitt resident who works and resides in his hometown and enjoys volunteering with various DeWitt organizations.