It's national fire prevention week and local departments are taking part in outreach events to encourage preparedness.
Zack Carstensen of Creston Fire Department said the department has a busy week as they visit school children and host open houses at the station during fire prevention week, which began Sunday and runs through this Saturday and is held in conjunction October – fire prevention month. The annual event was created in 1922, when the National Fire Protection Association named the second week of October as fire prevention week in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
"This year, the big push is that everyone has an escape plan from their homes – an evacuation plan – and that they practice them," said Carstensen.
Carstensen said, for residential homes, it is recommended to have two forms of escape.
"You should always have two exits and know your forms of escape – doors, windows. Every home should have an evacuation route and every room should have two forms of escape," he said.
To safely evacuate a home, Carstensen said residents should crawl low to the floor if smoke is present to avoid inhalation, make sure doors aren't hot before opening them, close doors behind you during an evacuation, if possible to prevent the spread of fire.
"Don't waste time doing that, but if you leave a bedroom, close the door. That actually stops the spread of fire a lot more than people believe," he said.
Carstensen also said once evacuated, to call 911 from outside the home and to not reenter a residence for any reason, not even for pets.
Some of the most common types of house fires can be prevented, said Carstensen.
"One of the leading causes of house fires is unattended cooking," said Carstensen. "People leave their food while it's cooking or grease or a towel left near the stove catches fire."
Carstensen said fire caused by unattended cooking is not limited to frying, but can be caused by grilling and broiling, too.
As the holidays and winter approaches, Carstensen also warns of overloaded electrical outlets.
Carstensen said as firefighters meet with students this week, they aren't just asking them to start conversations at home about fire evacuation plans, or teaching them how to stop, drop and roll, but Creston firefighters are showing young children what they look like in their gear.
"The first and second grades ... we push the idea of not to fear firefighters in gear, so we'll ... go in full gear ... so kids learn not to be afraid of us. That's one big issue in a fire; we'll come in, in all that gear, and then they are just terrified of us and go hide," he said.
Carstensen added that fire prevention week also serves as a reminder to check smoke detectors within the home and said many resources are available online to help individuals and families develop escape plans at www.nfpa.org.