National Fire Prevention Week 2020: 51 weeks and counting

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

So, we’re wrapping up National Fire Prevention Week for 2019. The open houses have been conducted at fire stations and fire halls across the U.S. and Canada. The public displays (e.g., firefighters and their apparatus) at shopping malls, festivals, and sporting events where those firefighters have engaged adults and children to talk about this year’s NFPW theme for conducting home fire escape plans are now in the past with photos posted on social media and fire department websites. Everybody feeling good, right?

Wrong. Because across the U.S. and Canada, Monday October 14th, 2019 will begin the next 51 weeks for which fire and life safety education and programs will return to the “second-class citizen” section of most fire departments.

The Charlotte Fire Department says its personnel will visit every single third grade class in the city this year. They’re ramping up efforts because it’s National Fire Prevention Week 2019.

The monumental task of trying to change the current culture in both countries—that fires are unpreventable accidents—to one that accepts and understands that fires are preventable, will once again fall upon the shoulders of overworked and under-resourced fire educators in fire departments as firefighters and fire officers return their focus to what they do best—and what most of them like the most—responding to and putting out fires for the next 51 weeks.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are fire departments out there who have been working on, and continue to work on, improving their balance between being a suppression-centric department to that of a more prevention-centric department. But preventable fires are happening in the U.S. and Canada 24 hours a day, every day of the year. So, why do we continue to only focus on preventing fires one week out of 52 each year?

ICYMI, this is an article I posted on June 10th  of this year, almost three full months before NFPW 2019 kicked off that asked What is your department doing for National Fire Prevention Week?

Take a few minutes to read it and then use it to review your fire departments involvement and activities during this past week. And then start thinking about thinking about what you did well and what you can improve upon.

Now, here’s my latest challenge: What are you and you fire department going to do, as we wind up 2019 and head into the year 2020, to make it a greater part of your mission to work at preventing fires every week until National Fire Prevention Week 2020?

Being the kind of guy I am, I’m going to give you and your fire department a “do over.” Here are four “giants” in the fire and life safety education field (IMHO) who it would behoove you to get to know. Each of these incredible women have a distinct and useful perspective that they bring to fire and life safety education for the public.

Samantha Hoffmann, Fire Prevention Officer, Barrie (ON) Fire and Emergency Service

Tanya Bettridge, Captain – Public Education at Mississauga (ON) Fire and Emergency Services

Jennifer Cooper, Fire Prevention Officer, Fire Prevention / Public Education Officer at Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville (ON) Fire and Emergency Services

Tracy Last, Fire and Life Safety Education Strategist, Owner and Developer of Fire-ED Interactive Community

Clockwise from top left: Samantha Hoffmann; Tanya Bettridge; Jennifer Cooper; and Tracy Last (With the author at Firehouse EXPO 2015)

These really are four women that you and your fire department should get to know between now and National Fire Prevention Week 2020. Hurry, because you’ve only got 51 weeks to work with!

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,