"This year's [Fire Prevention Week] message is kind of a general thing and this one is just make sure everyone is aware that they are responsible for fire prevention for yourself and your family," Mark Hathaway, Cartersville Fire Department Fire Marshal, said.
The department is hosting Fire Prevention Week Oct. 9 through 15. Kicking off the educational week, downtown's CFD Station 1 opened to the public for the third annual Fire Safety Open House.
"[In addition to] doing our normal activities, people could come here and see what the fire department is all about and what services we offer," Hathaway said. "Prevention week is a good time [for this] so that we not only get fire prevention methods out but also people can come in and see the equipment and meet the firemen and see what goes on here."
Held Saturday, the open house included demonstrations, puppet shows and a fire safety house. Food, refreshments and door prizes also were part of the day's events. Free blood pressure screenings were available as well during the event, and Hathaway noted that this is a regular service offered daily.
"Blood pressure screenings are a free service that we offer here all the time anyway," he said. "Anyone can come in and get their blood pressure checked at any time."
In a news release that included tips for prevention and safety, Hathaway said people should "be ahead of the game" to protect their families from fire.
"In 2009, 2,565 people died in home fires," Hathaway said in the release. "Nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan, keeping things that can burn away from the stove and always turning off space heaters before going to bed.
"While preventing home fires in Cartersville is always our number one priority, it is not always possible," Hathaway said. "Cartersville's residents need to provide the best protection to keep their homes and families safe in the event of a fire."
If a fire were to break out in a home, Hathaway urges residents not to attempt to extinguish it themselves.
"Just get out," Hathaway said. "We never recommend that you try to fight a fire yourself. You're much better off just going outside.
"Everybody's got a cellphone now, so you can start calling on your way out. You don't even have to go to a neighbor's house to call anymore. Just call on your way out the door."
Hathaway also noted a simple task people should be sure to do when exiting a burning home or structure that is often forgotten.
"Close the door behind you," he said. "Make sure you close it up. A lot of people don't realize that if you'll close the door, it will keep a lot of fresh air from getting to the fire and maybe slow the growth down.
"Houses these days are built so air-tight that if you can keep it closed up it will slow the growth down," he said.
Ensuring that smoke alarms are in proper working order is one of the first and most simple tips firefighters encourage people to follow. According to the National Fire Protection Association, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
Dead batteries are often the culprit to alarms that are found not working properly. This may be due to the annoying chirp of the low battery notification many alarms sound and residents who take the alarm off of the wall rather than replacing the battery.
There are two types of alarms available for purchase and installation: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization smoke alarms are generally more responsive to flaming fires such as a pan fire or smoke from cooking, according to the release. A photoelectric alarm is more responsive to smoldering fires such as cigarettes, overheated wiring or something hot like a space heater.
To take advantage of all safety and fire prevention measures, firefighters encourage the installation of both types of alarms in homes.
CFD offers the following tips for protecting homes and families from fire:
* Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. If you are leaving the kitchen, turn off the stove.
* Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment such as the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.
* Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters.
* Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
* If you smoke, smoke outside.
* Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table.
* Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
* Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
* Interconnect all smoke alarms in the home so that when one sounds, they all sound.
* Test smoke alarms at least monthly and replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond when tested.
* Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond if the smoke alarm sounds.
* Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible ways out. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of the home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
For more information and tips, contact the Cartersville Fire Prevention Division at 770-387-5636 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on Fire Prevention Week and smoke alarms, visit the NFPA's website at www.firepreventionweek.org.