In Chicago, October 8, 1871, all was quiet as a warm fall day deepened into evening. Noise, hubbub and alarms rose at 8:30 pm, when the Great Chicago Fire started as a small flame licking straw in the O’Leary barn. Fed by dry, windy weather and wooden structures, the fire roared voraciously for three days, killing hundreds, destroying several square miles and leaving 100,000 people homeless. 

One misstep that allowed the fire to burn uncontrolled: an early alert didn’t register at the courthouse where fire watchmen were stationed. Clearly, fire alarms were critical then and they remain so today. Sounds like these are the focus of National Fire Protection Week, a public safety initiative that began in 1992 and takes place this year from October 3-9.

“This year’s theme, created by the National Fire Protection Association, is ‘Learn the sounds of fire safety,’” says Leslie Anderson, Vice President of Training, Paul Davis Restoration Inc. “The harsh tones of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are lifesavers, as are the softer reminders they emit when they need servicing. Risks of dying in a home fire are more than 50 percent lower if working smoke alarms are present. Every family and every building needs these devices installed as recommended, maintained correctly and constantly powered.”

Paul Davis reminds everyone to stay alert to the sounds of fire safety: 

Smoke alarms: continuing sets of three very loud beeps mean get up, get out of the structure and call 911.  Hearing a soft chirp every minute or so? Batteries need changing. If your device is older than 10 years, replace it. 

Carbon monoxide alarms: continuing sets of four beeps mean carbon monoxide has been detected. Get up, get out and call 911. Hearing a single soft chirp every 30 seconds to one minute or so? The battery needs replacing. These devices also indicate when they are reaching the end of their useful lives. These “time to replace” sounds vary depending on manufacturers, so check device manuals for specific instructions. 

Manufacturers also offer devices suitable for hearing impaired occupants – flashing lights or bed shakers are two widely available options.

Fire prevention becomes an absolute must once you know the stark statistics: over the life of a household, there is a 50 percent chance the home will experience an accidental fire, with most igniting in the kitchen. Risks are significant and devastating in office environments, too: 60 to 80 percent of all businesses never recover after experiencing a structural fire. 

If your property suffers from a fire despite your best efforts at prevention? Paul Davis is on call around the clock to respond, mitigate and restore homes and businesses as quickly as possible.