The Santa Fe Independent School District’s board of trustees, at their regularly scheduled September board meeting, proclaimed the week of Oct. 9-15 as Fire Prevention Week in Santa Fe ISD. The 2016 Fire Prevention Week theme, “Don’t Wait, Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 years” effectively serves to remind us that we need working smoke alarms to give us the time to get out safely.

Santa Fe ISD is urging all parents and staff to install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and to support the many public safety activities and efforts of Santa Fe Fire and Rescue during Fire Prevention Week 2016. Santa Fe first responders are dedicated to reducing the occurrence of home fires and home fire injuries through prevention and protection education.

At our elementary campuses this week, students will receive fire safety tips and be able to tour a fire truck with the assistance of our Santa Fe Fire and Rescue personnel. On campuses throughout the district, we urge our students and staff to be responsive to public education measures in order to take personal steps to increase their safety from fire, especially in their homes.

Fire is a serious public safety concern both locally and nationally, and homes are where people are at the greatest risk from fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to 369,500 home fires in 2014. In one-fifth of all homes with smoke alarms, the smoke alarms are not working. All smoke alarms should be replaced at least once every 10 years. The age of a smoke alarm can be determined by the date of its manufacturer, which is marked on the back of the smoke alarm.

Fire Prevention Week was originally established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on Oct. 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on Oct. 9, 1871.

On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (today known as the International Fire Marshals Association), decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should henceforth be observed not with festivities, but in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention. The commemoration grew incrementally official over the years.

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The president of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.

Patti Hanssard is the assistant superintendent for human resources and the public relations officer for SFISD.

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