This week, Oct. 9-15, 2011, is National Fire Prevention Week, and unlike National Sleep Awareness Week (is anyone really unaware of sleep?) or Celebrate Your Name Week, this is one week that really needs your attention.


Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This huge conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 without homes, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres of land. The fire began on Oct. 8, 1871 and continued to wreak havoc until it was extinguished a few days later on Oct. 10.  


In memory of this horrific fire, National Fire Prevention Week was launched to make sure families think about what they should do in the event that their home catches on fire. This year's theme: “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” is pretty self-explanatory. It's about keeping families and communities safe.


Don't let your eyes glaze over on this one. Take a minute to think what your family needs to know and do to prevent a fire. Talk to your kids about the dangers of fire and make sure they know to be careful — or even stay away from — items like the stove, the fireplace, cigarette lighters or candles — anything that can cause a fire. Talk about the different ways each family member can get out of the house if a fire starts. Go ahead and practice your escape plan a few times to make sure kids will remember what to do.


Next, check your home's smoke detectors. Are they working? Now is a good time to change the batteries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of 10 fire deaths happen in homes without working smoke alarms.


If you can, make arrangements to stop in at your local fire station so that your kids can see the equipment and people who are there to help during a fire. My daughter's class recently took a field trip to our local fire station, and she and her buddies were very impressed by how much gear the firefighters must wear and how different (and scary) they look when they wear it. Seeing these folks in and out of their fire gear makes kids less likely to hide from firefighters during an emergency.


Stop by the National Fire Prevention Week website or the U.S. Fire Administration website for more tips to help you protect your family from a fire.

Be prepared: It's National Fire Prevention Week
Make sure your kids know what to do and where to go if a fire starts in your home.