Fire Prevention Month is an annual event every March dedicated to raising awareness on fire-related incidents. Events include but are not limited to a fire drill and a program dedicated to fire prevention and safety tips.
By virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 115-A signed into law in 1966, then-Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared March as Fire Prevention Month due to the alarming number of fire-related cases that occur specifically during March. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) mandates local governments to hold and participate in events in their own cities in observation of Fire Prevention Month.
Then, on January 29, 1991, the DILG founded the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the agency currently responsible for Fire Prevention Month. In general, they are responsible for preventing and suppressing all kinds of destructive fires, investigating its causes, enforcing fire-related laws and providing emergency medical and rescue services.
Since their formation as an agency, they have spearheaded Fire Prevention Month every March since.
Even without knowing what month it is, you can figure when Fire Prevention Month has commenced if you see an abundance of fire trucks roaming around the city and/or hear fire truck sirens. Aside from this, the DILG will begin hosting informative forums related to fire incidents and fire information. Lastly, you might notice public bulletins containing information about fire prevention and safety tips.
Right now, in the age of digitalization and information technology, social media is currently the predominant medium for fire-related publicity materials which you may have encountered.
The theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Month is “Sa Pag-iwas sa Sunog Hindi Ka Nag-iisa.”
Recent Fire Statistics
In 2019, the BFP reported 1,891 fires with damages worth PHP 257.4 million, citing smoking, open flame from rubbish, bonfire to structural fire as main causes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic from 2019-2021, the number of fire cases dropped.
In 2020, the agency reported 918 fires with damages worth PHP 231.3 million, this time electrical ignition as the main cause.
The following year, per the BFP, the number of fire cases dropped again at 905 fires. However, the cost of damages amounted to PHP 335.5 million, more than PHP 100 million more than last year in terms of monetary loss. Electrical ignition caused by arcing was cited as the main perpetrator.
From the period January to February of 2022, BFP spokesperson Supt. Annalee Carbajal-Atienza said that fire-related incidents totaled 2,103, a 12.9 percent increase from 2021 of the same periods.
Along with studies from their agency’s fire investigators, she attributed this increase to Filipino’s carefree tendencies towards their home electrical use. According to Carbajal-Atienza, Filipinos overuse their electricity—for long and unreasonable hours—a total disregard for fire safety.
Read Also: Electrical Fire Safety Tips for Your Home
On March 1, 2022, BFP’s fire trucks began making rounds in local cities with their sirens on to mark the start of Fire Prevention Month 2022. In terms of statistics, the BFP aims to reduce nation fires by eight percent. And since it is Fire Prevention Month, now is the best time to raise awareness and educate the Filipinos on the best fire prevention and safety tips.
Fire Prevention Month Festivities
In opening week, BFP will kick-off activities with caravans, motorcades and parades.
The week after is “BFP Community Relations Week”, where events like games and arts and music contests focus on community building and relationship formation.
The remainder of the month will make use of talks and forums to create a platform for discourse, particularly on fire causes, and fire prevention and safety tips.
Another popular and requisite activity primarily associated with this initiative is the fire drill.
In 2008, Republic Act No. 9514 or the “Fire Code of the Philippines of 2008” was signed into law. Included in the document was the requirement of large establishments to conduct fire drills.
For instance, for those who live in condominiums, a fire ignited may cause one to panic, especially due to living very high above the ground. The fire drill becomes necessary because it provides you with the pertinent steps on what to do in case a fire starts. So, if worse comes to worst, you will not panic since you learned from the fire drill on what to do.
Another example is a school. All schools and universities schedule a yearly fire drill where faculty, staff, and students simulate a fire and are instructed how to act and where to go in the event of an actual fire. Fire drills are required since it is a school’s responsibility to take care of its students.
Due to how important and effective it is, a fire drill is one of the essentials when it comes to fire prevention and safety tips.
Safety tips for fire prevention and fire evacuation at home
Home is the last thing you would want to catch a fire. To make sure such never occurs, there must be preventive measures taken around the house. This is even more important if you live in condominiums with limited space.
The following list shows ways to keep a fire from happening in your home.
1. Unplug items you aren’t using
Items plugged for unnecessarily long times or are not being used at all can become a potential fire hazard. Electronics like TVs, radios, and gaming consoles can experience a surge, causing them to heat up and start a fire.
Unplugging them will make sure a potential surge will not happen at all. If plugging and unplugging is too inconvenient, use a surge protector.
2. Keep an eye on any flame
Anytime you start a large enough fire at home — like cooking, starting a fire, or lighting a candle — never leave it unattended.
This way, if ever the fire grows larger than intended, you can extinguish it immediately. With a disaster averted before it got worse, you keep everyone in the household out of harm’s way. If you are multitasking, always have smoke detectors and sprinklers installed, as well as a fire extinguisher in a nearby convenient location.
3. Check electrics/electronics regularly
Digging through walls and meticulously examining the electrical wires in your home is not what is being asked of you. Just peek at any visible wires and wall outlets and see if there is anything wrong with it in one glance.
For example, a TVs wiring may have some liquid dripping from the wires, or a certain wall outlet does not work anymore. It could mean that they are frayed and damaged. That is a sign to leave it unused and have it checked by a professional.
4. Keep the exits clear
In the event a fire strikes, it is ideal to have an exit that is easy to access.
If you design your house with many pieces of furniture that can potentially block the exit, this may prove detrimental as not only will the furniture block the exit, but they may also catch fire themselves and make escaping even harder.
As much as possible, keep the furniture close to the wall so that if a fire indeed occurs, the exit is a straight line and escaping will be easier and quicker.
5. Let the experts handle the rest
Firefighters, the BFP, and the like exist for a reason, to put out flames and protect Filipinos from fires.
Hence, it is imperative to have emergency contacts saved on your cellphone or easily accessible around the house.
Considering this instance, if a fire happens and you successfully escape, do not go back in. If something or more importantly, someone is missing, this is when you must call emergency and have them perform a rescue.
Post-Fire Prevention Month
The month of March only serves as the month dedicated to raising awareness and disseminating information. Fires will still happen any other time.
Therefore, everyone must do their part in learning more about fire prevention and safety tips and keep these applications to heart if they will need it.
By doing one’s part by being vigilant and smart during a fire, one saves another’s life.
Written by Cholo Hermoso