The phrase, “you have to fight fire with fire” is a catchy name for a song, and is often how firefighters battle forest fires. But when it comes to the protection of homes and businesses in our communities, firefighters fight fire with water. October 8-14 is the National Fire Prevention Association’s (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week, and it is a good time to remember not only how our public water systems help protect our homes, schools and businesses, but also how planning and awareness can help keep you and your family safe.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Every second counts, plan 2 ways out!” NFPA’s website is full of tips and resources you can use with your family. This week, make it a point to think about the potentially lifesaving importance of planning as well as practicing escape routes from every room in your house. NFPA emphasizes how quickly a seemingly small fire can overtake a room or entire house, and how vital it is for everyone to make a fast, safe exit. Tips include:
- Drawing a map of the home with two routes from every room leading to the outside
- Teaching children how to escape on their own in case an adult cannot reach them
- Remembering that after a smoke detector sounds a person typically has just two minutes to escape
- Establishing a meeting point outside and a safe distance from the home
- Holding fire drills with all residents of the home at least twice a year (and don’t forget your pets!)
Fire Prevention Week is also a good time to remember how our water systems are a silent provider of round-the-clock protection for our homes. When water lines are maintained, firefighters and other emergency workers can access the water they need to extinguish fires and save your home. That’s one of the reasons utilities like American Water regularly perform hydrant maintenance and flushing, which allows us to test the hydrants to make sure water supply and pressure will be available when firefighters need it. And it’s one of the reasons we’re continually replacing and renewing the water mains in our streets. Often, our projects to replace aging water mains include an increase the diameter of the main, which increases the water flow available to the fire hydrant.
In your own home or business, installing a sprinkler system could go a long way toward decreasing the risk of fires (and the related costs) that occur every year. One of the greatest benefits to automatic sprinkler systems is that water is always in the pipelines, meaning a sprinkler starts “fighting the fire” almost immediately. The NFPA offers great information about in-home sprinklers with key facts including:
- In many instances sprinklers can completely extinguish the flames, or at least contain the fire, heat and toxic fumes until the fire department can take over.
- Only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates, preventing water from entering non-fire areas.
- It is very rare for sprinklers to go off accidentally.
So, this Fire Prevention Week, I encourage everyone to plan your two ways out, and to think about how firefighters “fight fire with water” while you and your family are safely away from the flames.