Depending upon whom you ask, we are either a week into National Fire Prevention Month or just kicking off National Fire Prevention Week, Sunday through next Saturday.
Fire departments tend to observe the week, sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association, which is said by some to have its roots in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, although officially formed in 1896 by a group of insurance companies.
Other organizations and businesses promote fire safety throughout October, and among them, on Saturday, was Wauwatosa's Puhl's True Value Hardware, 1526 N. 68th St.
Puhl's brought in representatives from the companies whose home fire safety equipment it sells, offered discounts and prize drawings and provided activities for kids, such as a fire safety coloring book. Posters and flyers promoted it in advance – but that wasn't the best advertisement.
"Having that big yellow fire truck in the parking lot attracts a lot of attention," said Nanch Puhl, who co-owns the store along her sister, Jan Puhl Przybylski.
Indeed, a 100-foot ladder extended above Milwaukee Avenue catches the eye, especially of children – who were invited to climb into and clamber around on the rig.
"We're doing a public fire safety demonstration for Fire Safety Week, teaming up with Puhl's Hardware," said acting Lt. Jeff Dethloff, commanding the Wauwatosa Fire Department's Truck No. 1. "We're handing out fire safety books and coloring books and tattoos. We're letting (kids) go inside and see all the different tools we carry on the truck."
That was cool with Adam, 7, and Noah, 4, Klippel of Wauwatosa, whose dad Gary took them along on his home improvement errand so they could sit behind the wheel of the ladder truck.
In the store, adding to the fun and freebies, Terese Kendl and her daughter Dorothy were handing out bags of fresh-popped popcorn of behalf of Girl Scout Troop 1340.
"They just asked us to come serve popcorn, and we're here," Terese said.
On the serious side, Karen Fetzer, regional sales manager for Kidde, the leading maker of home fire safety products, said, "Check your smoke detectors, make sure they all have their batteries in them, no more than six months old. Make sure they (the detectors) are no more than 10 years old. Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector on every level, because it is the law in Wisconsin, and make sure you have a fire extinguisher in the home as well."
Jonathan Schulz, territory sales representative for E.A. Langenfeld, a manufacturers' representative for hardware companies and co-ops, echoed that and added that existing CO detectors should be no more than five years old, although new ones are rated for seven.
"I asked one customer if he had a carbon monoxide detector, and he said, yes, but it was older. I said, 'Do you want to wake up in the morning?' And he went and got one."
Puhl said that discount prices on selected smoke and CO detectors were good through the month, along with other fire safety products. But, she stressed, no matter what week, month or time of the year it is, folks shouldn't forget
"We have little tattoos, for the little ones, that Kidde provided, and it says that every day is fire prevention day."
Have a fire escape plan
The National Fire Prevention Association reminds everyone to have an escape plan with a diagram of what you and your family will do in case of fire.
You should have:
- Two different ways out.
- Someone assigned to help those that need help getting out.
- Someone assigned to call 911.
- A meeting place for everyone once they get out.
And finally, No. 5: Once you get out, do not go back in.