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Fire Prevention Week promotes sounds of safety

Annie Bloxson, Pensacola City Fire Marshal (R)
Annie Bloxson, Pensacola City Fire Marshal (R)

This is Fire Prevention Week nationwide, and the Pensacola Fire Department is fully involved in its promotion. This year’s theme is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety.”

“Please join with NFPA to promote Fire Prevention Week in your community; so that everyone can learn the sounds of fire safety, and know how to respond,” said Jim Pauley, President and CEO of the National Fire Protection Association.

“Go to firepreventionweek.org, for resources and tools that include more about this year’s campaign, and support for your efforts,” said Pauley in the NFPA video. “It’s a big world — let’s protect it together.”

This is the 90th observance of the week, established in 1922 by NFPA. In 1895, the non-profit and non-governmental body was active when the first sprinkler systems were installed – in developing the official rules and proper installation.

Now to 2021 -- Annie Bloxson is Fire Marshal for the city of Pensacola.

“In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance; making it the longest-running public health observance in our country,” Bloxson said. “It’s important year-round, but that week of Oct. 9 is the week that is dedicated.”

As part of the theme, Bloxson reminds us that safety equipment – smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors – have very distinct sounds.

“If you hear a continued set of three loud beeps on your smoke alarm, that means there’s smoke or fire and you need to get out and call 911 and stay out,” said Bloxson. “If it’s a single chirp every 30 to 60 seconds, that means the battery is probably low and needs to be changed.”

Three chirps from the CO detector mean dangerous levels of the gas are present -- and that could be your only warning.

“Odorless and colorless – and it displaces the oxygen in your body and brain, said Bloxson. “It can render you unconscious before you even realize that something is happening to you. So you can just doze off and go to sleep, and not know that you are being affected by carbon monoxide in your home.”

The key is making sure the devices are in good working order. And that starts with the batteries. Introduced in the 1970s, smoke alarms are now standard in most homes, and mandatory for new construction. Bloxson says they have more than proven their worth.

“Because you can have as little as 2 minutes to escape your home safely when there’s a fire; so a working smoke alarm – they’ll do their jobs in helping save lives, so you have that opportunity to get outside of your home safely.”

With fall just beginning, there are other hazards to deal with in the area of fire prevention and protection. Many will crank up their space heaters when it gets cooler. Space heater safety, according to Bloxson – starts with location, location, location.

“Don’t have them close to furniture, curtains – anything flammable,” Bloxson said. “At least 3-10 ft. away from your flammable items in your home. And don’t fall asleep with your space heater on, especially if you have pets who can knock it over. “Some people still have the older models that do not cut off if they’re knocked over.”

Also, do not leave candles burning while you’re out of the house or asleep. A better replacement are battery-operated candles that have a light bulb in place of an open flame.

“I know that they don’t put off that nice smell that you would like; or that nice glow that you would like — but they’re safer,” she said.

The United States Fire Association urges everyone to have an escape plan in case of fire, and to practice it at least twice a year.

“Draw a map of each floor of your home, showing all doors and windows, [and] discuss the map with everyone who lives with you,” the video intones. “Make sure that all doors and windows that lead outside open easily -- have at least two ways of every room. And gather at an outside meeting place, where first responders can see you.”

More information about Fire Prevention Week, and free smoke alarm installations, are available from the Pensacola Fire Department at 850-436-5200; and Escambia County Fire Rescue at 850-595-4376.