Fire Safety Week: ‘Vulnerable members of our community should not be overlooked’

During this time of uncertainty and isolation for many members of our communities, especially those in rural areas who may be older or vulnerable, the public is being urged this National Fire Safety Week to make sure that they are not overlooked.

The first virtual National Fire Safety Week was officially launched this morning via an online video by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

Jointly run with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, from October 5 to 12, the week is about enhancing fire safety, particularly in the home.

This year’s theme is ‘Smoke Alarms Save Lives’. The campaign will focus on fire safety in the home as the public continues to spend an increased amount of time at home during the public health situation. 

People are being urged to ‘STOP’ – have Smoke alarms (at least one on each floor); Test them every week; look for Obvious dangers (fire risks like overloaded sockets and solve them); and Plan your escape and practice is regularly.

Minister O’Brien said: “The thought of a fire is terrifying, yet many of us feel that it can’t happen to us.

“Fire doesn’t choose. It can happen to any of us at any time. Both the very young and the elderly are particularly vulnerable and these groups account for almost half of the domestic fatalities.”

Background of the week

This week is very important in the calendar of fire services around the world. National Fire Safety Week has its roots in the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred on October 8, 1871. 

The former American President, Calvin Coolidge, proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week in 1925 in memory of those who perished in that fire. Since then, in early October, it has been observed each year in countries around the world. 

The key messages which are to be communicated are:

  • Operated through the local authorities, the fire services give out thousands of smoke alarms for free to the vulnerable every year and install them – but there are still homes with no smoke alarms. In the last five years, at least 32% of fires that resulted in fatalities had no working smoke alarm;
  • Although fire fatalities have been steadily declining, an average of 27 people died in fires in Ireland per year over the last five years;
  • Smoke alarms should be tested every week. The fire services use #TestItTuesday as a reminder;
  • Most people who die in fires die from smoke inhalation and not from burns and it can take as little as three minutes to die from smoke inhalation;
  • Smoke will not wake a sleeping person but likely put them into a deeper sleep;
  • The importance of disposing safely of smoking materials after use, especially at bedtime;
  • Vulnerable members of our community should not be overlooked;
  • A routine fire safety check only takes a few minutes but could mean the difference between life and death;
  • Have a fire escape plan, teach it to your family and practice it regularly.