LIVINGSTON, NJ — In order to promote fire safety and spread the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) message to "Look, Listen and Learn," the Livingston Fire Department held its annual open house on Sunday at fire headquarters to kick off Fire Prevention Week and also raise funds for the Saint Barnabas Medical Center Burn Unit. 

Livingston Fire Chief Chris Mullin said this message is crucial for all residents, but that the event was especially targeted toward school-aged children who will “hopefully learn and grasp the concept of ‘Fire Prevention’ at a young age.”

"This year’s open house was successful compared to the past few years, as we saw a big increase in attendance,” said Mullin, who explained that the department offered pumpkin painting as a new attraction this year. “Children had to complete a ‘Scavenger Hunt’ by visiting six fire-prevention stations and answering questions to get stickers to complete their form in order to paint/decorate a pumpkin, which they took home.”

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Mullin noted that about 300 “softball-sized pumpkins” were distributed during the four-hour event, with “many smiling faces throughout the afternoon.” Also added this year was a fire truck-themed "trackless train" that provided free rides to attendees, complete with lights and a siren.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” According to Mullin, this message asks people to do the following:

  • Look for places where fires can start, and take steps to eliminate the dangers (such as discarding damaged and frayed electric cords) before they cause a fire;
  • Listen for the sound of a smoke detector and act quickly to evacuate the area to safety, find an adult to investigate the cause of the smoke detector activation, or call 911 immediately if there is smoke present; and
  • Learn two ways out of each room, such as using the main entry door as well as a secondary door or window in the event of a fire emergency, and also have an adult check all windows for functionality to ensure that they will open readily.

Fire Prevention Week works to educate the public about basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire. In a typical home fire, the NFPA states that residents have as little as one-to-two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds.

NFPA statistics show that the number of U.S. home fires has been steadily declining over the past few decades. However, the death rate per 1,000 home fires that are reported to fire departments was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980.

“These numbers show that while we’ve made significant progress in teaching people how to prevent fires from happening, there’s still much more work to do in terms of education the public about how to protect themselves in the event of one,” Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of outreach and advocacy, said in a statement. “This is particularly critical given the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow and spread”

Carli also noted that although people feel safest in their home, it is also the place people are at greatest risk to fire, with four out of five U.S. fire deaths occurring at home. This over-confidence contributes to complacency toward home escape planning and practice, she said.

This month, the members of the Livingston Fire Department will be visiting both the public and private schools in the community in order to spread the word about fire prevention to students in grades K-2. The department will also be performing fire drills in all schools.

With fall now in full swing, Mullin urges residents to use extra care when decorating their homes this year, keeping all "straw scarecrow/corn stalk-like decorations" away from outdoor lighting fixtures and recessed lighting in entranceways.

“If not placed properly, these dried corn-stalks can ignite if they come into contact with a hot light-bulb (usually recessed in front porch overhangs),” he said. “Hay bails should also not be placed right up against entrance doors, as they can be ignited quickly and block egress from a residence, and they pose a high fire danger being so dry.”

He noted that hay bails should be placed at least 10 feet from the entrance to homes.

Visit https://www.livingstonfire.org/ to learn more about the volunteer department, which is headquartered at 62 South Livingston Avenue.

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