National Fire Prevention Week 2020: 8+ weeks and counting

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

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National Fire Prevention Week for 2020 begins October 4th and continues through October 10th. And it’s going to be much different than NFPW 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The traditional open houses at fire stations and fire halls across the U.S. and Canada won’t be happening. 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 won’t be happening either. So, what are we to do?

Well, doing nothing is not an option because preventable fires–like the coronavirus–is immune to current conditions. Those preventable fires are going to keep happening with the resultant fire deaths, injuries, and property loss.

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, is still very much a mission for which not enough resources are being devoted both by fire departments and the communities they serve. This year, more than ever, the task will fall upon the shoulders of overworked and under-resourced fire educators in fire departments.

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 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 head into NFPW 2020, to make it a greater part of your mission to work at preventing fires every week, not just during National Fire Prevention Week 2020 and future fire prevention weeks?

Being the kind of guy I am, I’m going to give you and your fire department a “favor.” 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, Acting Chief of Fire Prevention, Barrie (ON) Fire and Emergency Service

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

Jennifer Cooper, Program Specialist at Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General.

Selena Ruth, Lieutenant and Life & Safety Educator, with the Sumter (S.C.) Fire Department

Clockwise from top left: Salena Ruth; Samantha Hoffmann; Tanya Bettridge; and Jennifer Cooper.

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 about 8 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 makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,