October, Cows, and NFPA

In October of 1871, the Great Chicago Fire occurred. It raged for almost two days, killing many and leaving even more without homes. There are many stories and legends about how it was started. The most famous is that of Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. The lyrics of the song many will remember from childhood.

Late last night when we were all in bed,
Old Lady Leary left a lantern in the shed.
Well a cow kicked it over, winked his eye and said:
There’s gonna be a hot time in the old town tonight!
Fire! Fire! Fire!

While those lyrics are often sung as part of a children’s song, there is no denying the damage done during those two days. October is now known as National Fire Prevention Month dating as far back as 1922. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has designated the week of October 9th as Fire Prevention Week. This date was chosen as the Chicago fire started on the night of October 8th, but did most of its damage on October 9th.

The NFPA website provides some frightening statistics about home fires including:

  • Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep.
  • One quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom.
  • Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Home fires killed an average of eight people every day in 2013.

Fire Prevention Week is October 4-10, 2015

Each year NFPA chooses a theme for the week in an effort to remind people of fire safety. The themes go back as far as 1927. This year’s theme is “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep. Every Bedroom Needs a Working Smoke Alarm!” There is no denying smoke alarms save lives. Smoke travels fast and often in advance of a fire. Therefore having a working alarm will allow time for evacuation and saving lives.

NFPA urges people to have a smoke alarm in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. The alarms or detectors should be properly installed and tested at least monthly. If they are battery operated then the batteries should be changed yearly. To test your knowledge of home fire and smoke detector safety, take NFPA’s quiz.


Much of this information was reproduced from NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week website, http://www.firepreventionweek.org. © 2015 NFPA.

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