'Plan Your Escape' During 100th Annual Fire Prevention Week
Published: October 7th, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

'Plan Your Escape' during 100th annual Fire Prevention Week Members of the Earlville Fire Department teaching a fire prevention class to area students. October is Fire Prevention Month with Fire Prevention Week occurring from October 9 to October 15. This year's theme is "Plan Your Escape," and homeowners are encouraged to create an escape plan and meeting spot in the event of a house fire. (Photo by Tyler Murphy)

CHENANGO COUNTY — October is Fire Prevention Month, and this year the 100th annual Fire Prevention Week will take place from October 9 to October 15. This year the theme is "Plan Your Escape," and families are encouraged to establish an escape plan from their homes in the event of a fire.

"Every household should have two ways out of the house and a meeting place," said City of Norwich Fire Department Chief Jan Papelino. He explained that families should also practice and become familiar with their escape plan. Establishing a meeting place for household members will ensure everyone is out of the house and safe.

In year's past, the fire department has held an open house during Fire Prevention Week, and made visits to local elementary schools to teach students about fire safety and fire prevention.

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"We've got some things planned and we’re still waiting to see if we do the big thing. Usually we have an open house here on Thursday night, but I’m still kind of gauging that to see how everything’s going. The bottom line is COVID numbers are on the rise in the county," said Papelino.

"I’m just trying to be a little cautious about going into every school. In the past, and it’s been a few years, we used to go into Gibson and Perry Browne and we’d do a big thing in the auditoriums with the kids, and give the kids all a chance to walk through the fire truck, and spend a few hours at the school," he continued. "I don’t want to put people at risk, I don’t want to put staff at risk. But I know we’re going to at least be in a few of the schools that have reached out to us, and we’ll see what we can do to get with the kids that are there."

While the possibility of an open house is still uncertain, there are many things people can do at home to prevent fires and keep their families safe.

Kitchen fires are one of the most common types of fires in the home, according to Papelino, and are often caused by residents leaving cooking food unattended.

"A lot of fires, a number of fires, start in the kitchen," said Papelino. "People are cooking with oil or unattended things on the stove. I mean, I’ve seen ones where people fall asleep and have stuff cooking on the stove and they wind up having a kitchen fire or a house fire based off of that."

Additionally, with colder weather approaching, Papelino warned against using auxiliary heating devices such as electric and gas-powered space heaters.

"Gas-powered ones, you’ve got to make sure they’re properly vented. If you’ve got a propane heater that you use as an auxiliary it should have an outside vent for it," Papelino explained. "People using electric heaters trying to heat their house or heat a room or something, you’ve just got to be extremely careful to keep any combustibles completely away from the front, back, on the sides."

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All homeowners should also be sure to have their furnaces checked, cleaned, and serviced on an annual basis.

Another important preventative against house fires are high-quality fire extinguishers. Although many stores offer affordable extinguishers in the $15 to $25 range, Papelino said these may not be the best choice long term.

"If you’re going to go to the expense of getting an extinguisher, you should get one that’s serviceable, that can be checked on a regular basis, and serviced if you use them," he said. "You know, you can go down to a store and you can buy one of those for $15 or $20. Those aren’t the ones. They’re not going to put out much of a fire and they’re not going to last, and you’re not going to be able to refill them or anything."

"If you’ve got a place that you need one of those that’s fine. But you should replace it on a regular basis, not just leave it there for ten years because when you go to use it a lot of times they don’t work."

Refillable and serviceable fire extinguishers can be purchased at Advanced Fire Protection, located at 6142 County Road 32 in Norwich.

More information on fire safety and fire prevention can be found on the National Fire Protection Association Website, NFPA.org. The site offers educational materials, videos, and interactive games and activities for children to teach them about fire safety.

Residents are also encouraged to stop by the City of Norwich Fire Department to meet with the staff and show their kids the fire trucks.

"A lot of families walk by the firehouse in the summertime and a lot of times kids will want to come in and look at the fire trucks, and it’s always good to have people do that," said Papelino. "It happens here all the time and I just think it’s a good thing for people, and for kids especially, to get to see the trucks and hopefully it helps if they have any fears of that."