© 2022 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Local Fire Departments Observe Fire Prevention Week

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

The Pensacola Fire Department is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association to promote this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, which kicked off Sunday and runs through next Saturday.

Fire Prevention Week is held each year during the week of October 9 – in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire on Oct. 8, 1871.

“This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people; left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,000 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land,” said Robert Moran, chief of the Brewster, MA, Fire Department, in a video promoting the week.

“In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed ‘Fire Prevention Week’ a national observance,” said Moran. “Making it the longest-running public health observance in our country’s history.”

“The National Fire Protection Association – for over 90 years – they have sponsored a Fire Prevention Week,” said Pensacola Fire Marshal Annie Broxson. “And this year’s campaign theme is, ‘Not Every Hero Wears a Cape – Plan and Practice Your Escape.’”

The campaign works to educate everyone about the small, but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe. Some of their favorite targets are elementary school students.

Holding up a pamphlet, Broxson said, “This is one of the pamphlets that we’ll be passing out this week; if we get the information to the students, it will get home to the parents.”

Figures from the NFPA show that fire departments in the U.S. responded to 357,000 home structure fires in 2017. The fires caused more than 2,600 deaths and almost 11,000 injuries. On average, seven people died in a home fire per day between 2012 and 2016.

Credit City of Pensacola
Pensacola Fire Marshal Annie Broxson (R).

“Behaviors that can increase your chances of surviving is staying calm and focused and make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home,” Broxson said. A couple of the other points: act immediately after your smoke alarm sounds off; get out of your home. There’s nothing at home you need to worry about saving that can’t be replaced. We can’t replace our own lives.”

Both fire departments serving Escambia County offer programs to install smoke alarms free of charge to any resident. Call 850-436-5200 for the Pensacola Fire Department, and 475-5530 for Escambia Fire-Rescue.

“While escape planning is an essential component of fire safety, applying other elements such as ‘stop, drop and roll,’ ‘crawl low in smoke,’ [and] ‘feel your door for heat,’” said Chief Robert Moran. “Cooking safety, trip and fall safety, and space heater use safety also work to improve your level of fire and life safety on a daily basis.”

According to NFPA, three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in buildings without working smoke alarms; but the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half when one is present.

“Fire safety education isn’t just for school children,” Moran said. “Teenagers, adults and the elderly are also at risk in fires – making it important for every member of the community to take some time to make sure they understand the fire safety tips and techniques on how to stay safe in case of a fire.”

And make sure you have an escape plan, says Pensacola Fire Marshal Annie Broxson, both at home and elsewhere.

“Since I’ve been in this line of work, I have a tendency of checking smoke alarms,” Broxson said. “[If you] go to a hotel, know your way out. If you go to the [Pensacola] Bay Center, anywhere out of town, just know your way out of the building – not just in your home, but everywhere. Even in this building [City Hall]. If that alarm sounds, don’t let us come down and catch you sitting in your office; get up and get out.”

Fire Prevention Week activities are planned by the Pensacola Fire Department, including Public Safety Day, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Community Maritime Park. More information about Fire Prevention Week and home escape planning is available at www.fpw.org.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.