Robert J. O’Shaughnessy
Captain CT State Police (ret.)
Fire: source of cozy warmth, cheery light, tasty food…and potential danger. Hard to start, hard to control, hard to put out. Constant vigilance keeps fire on the friendly side of life, but when things go wrong, it helps to have quick-thinking and seasoned professionals to come to your aid.
Early cities—with lots of wooden buildings packed close together—learned their fire-control lessons well, and repeatedly.
Locally, our oldest city center was a pioneer. New London’s first fire engine was placed in service in 1767 with the first Engine Company being established in 1786. At first a volunteer organization, the New London Fire Department is now staffed by professional firefighters. One of the city’s experts is Calvin Darrow, New London’s Fire Marshal, who heads the Fire Prevention Division. Calvin has been a member of the department for 36 years and the Fire Marshal for 26 of those years.
Calvin explains that this year National Fire Prevention Week is observed in the United States and Canada during the Sunday to Saturday in which October 9 falls. Back in 1925, President Calvin Coolidge made the first proclamation of a Fire Prevention Week and the tradition is carried forward by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as an international sponsorship.
The association announced the 2013 Fire Prevention Week theme: “Prevent Kitchen Fires.” NFPA selected this theme to encourage greater care when cooking and an awareness of kitchen-fire dangers. One of history’s lessons is that the kitchen, a warm and cozy place, is where attentiveness is most crucial and where education is most valuable.
On average, New London firefighters respond to more than 50 kitchen fires each year with an average cost of $200 per incident. Most all kitchen fires are caused by leaving food cooking unattended, sometimes even for a brief moment. The New London Fire Department urges all residents to never leave cooking unattended at any time and to always have working smoke detectors in the home.
Calvin provides some important kitchen-safety tips to homeowners:
• When you fry, grill, or broil food, stay in the kitchen.
• Maintain a kid- and pet-free zone at least three feet away from the stove.
• Turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
• Keep both a pot lid and oven mitt nearby when you’re cooking to use in case of a grease fire. If you do have a grease fire, slide that lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.
• Have a working fire extinguisher in the home and know how to use it.
Further, Calvin says, one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to have a working smoke alarm that alerts you to both a fire that has flames, as well as a smoky fire that has fumes without flames. A “Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm” greatly reduces your chances of dying in a fire.
Make and practice a home fire-escape plan and set a meeting place outside for your family. Make sure everyone in your family knows at least two escape routes from your home.
Calvin suggests that people take time to visit the fire station nearest their home with the family during fire protection week. Meet your firefighters—the people who are there to protect you and your belongings—and listen to their advice.
The major take-home message, the one that you should think about when all seems to be going well? Be prepared!
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