In Alaska, October is recognized as Fire Prevention Month — and Oct. 9-15 is National Fire Prevention Week — but according to Capital City Fire/Rescue Marshal Dan Jager fire prevention is truly more of an everyday event.
“Fire prevention activities occur every day, all throughout the year, it’s not just a once a year thing or month, it’s really an everyday thing because fires happen anytime, day or night, so we’re always trying to get a message out there,” Jager said. “The end result is that we want everyone to be safe in our community and however we can get that message out, that’s what the point of it all is.”
CCFR is working with State Farm and the National Fire Protection Association for the second year in a row to promote this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape.” Jager said that this year’s campaign, which began on Oct. 9 and runs through Saturday , is focused around the importance of not only having an escape plan but also having it well practiced.
“Like anything else, it’s good to make plans, but if you don’t actively use it, the time that you need it, you might not remember how to go about doing things,”Jager said. “So we just want people to have that discussion.”
Jager said that Fire Prevention Week isn’t something just geared toward children, but rather it’s geared towards all ages, so that in addition to having a well-planned escape plan that everyone in the home is familiar with, people have at least two ways out and are prepared to execute a plan no matter the time of day.
“We tell people they need to practice their plan, we actually ask them to do it a couple times, once during the day when there’s daylight, that way you’re able to put your plan into play to make sure it’s going to work,” Jager said. “The other thing is, once you do that, we recommend people do it at night time when it’s dark because most of the time home fires happen in the middle of night when it’s dark and in addition to the lack of light you have smoke conditions you might have to deal with.”
Jager said a high percentage of Americans feel safest in their homes, but home fires also make up the bulk of fires that fire departments respond to.
“It’s unfortunate that we have a high number of fires happening in the homes, but also we have a high number of fire fatalities within those homes where people say that they feel that it’s the safest place they can be for any kind of an event,” Jager said. “That’s why the message this year is know two ways out of the home, practice it and we always add other things like having working smoke alarms for early detection, having portable fire extinguishers in case you do have a small fire say while you’re cooking, you’re able to at least try to keep it if not extinguished then at a smaller level while you’re waiting for fire response.”
Local State Farm agent Robin Lonas recently donated a Fire Prevention Week kit to CCFR which includes activities and information for children and adults, providing age-appropriate messages about home fire safety and prevention. This is Lonas’ third year of delivering the Fire Prevention Week kits to CCFR where her husband John Lonas serves as a volunteer firefighter.
“I am newer to the community, I moved here from Anchorage and took over this office in Juneau back in 2017, so probably a year or so of getting things under my belt I started community developing community relations with people,” Lonas said. “I’m a hands-on agent, so if I have a customer that has a fire, I’m out there on the scene with them because it’s just a detrimental situation. I just try to stay as active with the fire department as I can and if they’re in need of anything I’m always here to help to keep our community safe.”
Lonas said the Fire Prevention Week kits are designed to go into schools for youths based on the number of children that die in fire-related claims each year. According to Lonas and a news release issued by the National Fire Protection Association, every year 500 children 14-years-old or younger are killed by fires in the United States, mostly due to smoke inhalation.
According to Jager, CCFR has had a great partnership with State Farm thanks to Lonas and they look forward to having more opportunities in the future. In April of 2021 Lonas, along with State Farm, gave CCFR a grant for $1500, which Jager said allowed the department to purchase smoke alarms.
“Now we have a stash of smoke alarms that we can install for people that don’t have them or if they have ones that are faulty we can give to them so they can install or we can come by and put it in their homes for them,” Jager said. “It’s a really great partnership that we’ve had with State Farm over the last couple of years.”
According to State Farm, the insurance company has paid over $12 million in fire claims this year so far in just Alaska alone, with an average claim cost of $86,311. House fires cause an average of 2,620 civilian deaths each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association or State Farm? Lonas said it’s for this reason that State Farm believes it’s critical to provide information to not only children but everyone in the public on how to evacuate a home safely.
“Fire safety education isn’t just for school children,” Lonas said “Fire presents real risk to all of us, making it important for every member of the community to take these messages seriously and put them into action.”
CCFR shared the following safety tips to participate in this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign and its focus on home escape planning and practice:
— Make sure your home escape plan meets the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
— Smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds, they all sound.
— Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows open easily.
— Have an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home where everyone should meet.
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at email@example.com.