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Travis County preps for centennial fire prevention week

Thursday, October 6, 2022 by Seth Smalley

According to a proclamation unanimously approved by the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, the week of Oct. 9-15 is the 100th annual fire prevention week in Travis County. The theme of the centennial? “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”

“I’ve responded to way too many fatality fires in my career, and I have not forgotten one of them,” Fire Marshal Tony Callaway said. “The majority of fatality fires do occur in residential homes and could have been prevented.”

“Travis County is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all who live and visit our county,” Commissioner Ann Howard said, reading from the proclamation. “Residents who have planned and practiced a home fire escape plan are more prepared and will therefore be more likely to evacuate safely from their home and survive a fire.”

About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes that have no functioning smoke alarms, according to the resolution. Having working smoke alarms cuts the risk of death in half.

“The majority of the time was a factor that related to smoke alarms not being present and not working properly,” Callaway said. “Our sense of smell does not work. Even though we think we wake up to the smell of coffee and things of that nature, once the senses of your nose are actually working, it means you’re already actually awake.”

Callaway said it would take a family member or a physical sound to wake someone up during a fire.

“It is very important that we continue to invest in that campaign to remind folks out there that they may have smoke alarms installed, but that they may not be working,” Callaway said.

Residents should plan multiple paths out of each room in their house in the event of a fire and decide on an outside meeting place for family members, according to the resolution.

“We encourage residents to use Travis County’s award-winning neighborhood fire drill that can help neighbors prepare for a wildfire,” Howard said. The county has created a template with instructions and an application on its website.

“Buy-in from the residents of the neighborhood is critical before moving forward with the large-scale exercise,” the site reads. Sixty percent of the neighborhood has to agree to support the fire drills, which simulate an evacuation, and 40 percent of the homes have to agree to have at least one household member participate in the drills.

“I’m really, really pleased that we are doing this and I think more and more neighborhoods are interested in conducting this kind of a fire drill,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said. “It’s really just to build up the muscle memory so that people know what to do in case of a wildfire.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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