For many, Fire Prevention Week is a weeklong event in October, but for Harford County's fire departments, the whole month is dedicated to teaching residents about fire prevention.
"Fire Prevention Week has actually evolved into Fire Prevention Month because there's so much that we wind up doing related to fire prevention this time of year," Dave Williams, spokesperson for the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association, said.
The bulk of activities, however, are celebrated during the first weeks of October, he added, in honor of the Great Chicago Fire on Oct. 8, 1871.
That was how it began, Williams said, but now there are more modern concerns related to the upcoming fall and winter seasons that prompt fire prevention education.
"It's when we start moving into our home heating season and our holiday season," he said, adding there are more fires during the winter for those two reasons.
This year Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 9 through 15 and has been adopted by the Harford County Board of Education as well.
During Fire Prevention Week, or month, fire department events and safety awareness campaigns educate residents on maintenance items related to home heating and what type of holiday decorations are fire safe. As people turn back their clocks for daylight saving time in the coming months, Williams also urged residents to change the batteries in smoke alarms as well.
"It's a good time for the fire service to launch the educational programs to try to get everyone to recognize those hazards that will be coming around in the next few months," he added.
One of the biggest, and simplest, things a resident can do for fire safety is to install smoke alarms and make sure they are properly working, Williams said. People are "almost immune" to it by now, he added, but "smoke alarms are the number one safeguard you can put in place in your residence" to increase the chances of escaping a fire alive.
Sprinklers are crediting with preventing extensive damage and possibly saving lives in an apartment fire in Edgewood Thursday morning (please see story, Page A11).
An added bonus, he said, is that not only are they cheap, local fire departments give out and install them for free in residential homes. This isn't just limited to Harford County, either.
"Wherever you are, call your local fire department, they have smoke detectors available," he said.
Recent legislation will require residential sprinkler systems in new construction homes after January 2012, Williams added, further increasing the likelihood a person, and their property, survives a fire. Residential sprinkler systems are "unparalleled" in saving lives, he said.
For Fire Prevention Week, several local fire departments are hosting open houses. Some of the open houses include:
Norrisville Volunteer Fire Company: Oct. 1, 10 a.m.;
Level Volunteer Fire Company: Oct. 2, noon to 3 p.m.;
Whiteford Volunteer Fire Company: Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
Fallston Volunteer Fire Company: Oct. 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company: Oct. 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company: Oct. 15, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and
Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company: Oct. 23, noon to 4 p.m.