The recent recognition of National Fire Prevention Week is an important reminder of the danger that fire poses to our children and families.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), children under five are twice as likely to die in a fire as those over five. However, there are steps that we all can take to avoid this kind of tragedy. I have assembled a checklist of the most important advice.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children;
- Post emergency phone numbers on your telephone;
- Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your house, test them monthly, and replace batteries twice a year on daylight savings day;
- Place a fire extinguisher in high risk areas;
- Create an emergency escape plan that includes an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home. Walk through that plan frequently with everyone in the home;
- Assign someone to assist family members with mobility limitations and children; and,
- Teach children fire safety, including the danger of matches, lighters, and open flames, as well as Stop, Drop, and Roll.
Of course, a big part of fire prevention efforts are the people serving in volunteer fire departments throughout the state. That’s why I have worked hard in the Assembly to pass new laws recognizing their service, including giving local governments the option to provide benefits to volunteers who have served more than ten years (Ch. 357 of 2003), ensuring that volunteers stricken by heart disease while on duty continue receiving benefits under the Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law (Ch. 84 of 2003), and encouraging volunteers to take advanced emergency medical technician courses (Ch. 514 of 2003).
I also understand the financial problems faced by volunteer fire departments, and helped pass a law reducing the civil liability of fire departments who donate surplus equipment to other companies (Ch. 41 of 2003). This measure gives small volunteer departments with limited budgets access to quality affordable equipment.
Although Fire Prevention Week is behind us, our commitment to fire prevention should be year-round. I encourage you to take the steps to protect your loved ones from fire, and in doing so, ease the burden on the men and women who volunteer their time to protect us.
For more information on fire safety and prevention, please visit www.usfaparents.gov, or contact my office at (315) 428-9651 for a brochure on fire safety.