I spent the last couple of days at one of the most inspirational events, not just for those devoted to fire and life safety, but for anyone. The Phoenix Society’s 24th Annual World Burn Congress continues through tomorrow in Milwaukee, WI. The event brings together more than 800 burn survivors, family members, friends, caregivers and advocates to support and learn from each other and to learn about and promote programs, policies and legislative action that can prevent fires and provide resources to those who have been effected by fire.
The stories are many and varied from a child burned at a campfire and a young lady now in her 20’s who was burned at the age of two in a fire at her home to a woman who was severely burned trying to rescue her child from a fire many years ago to older adults who have devoted their entire lives to being positive role models for other burn survivors. But they share the same reason for attending – to be amongst those with similar struggles and give and or take away lessons to make them stronger. Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society, herself a burn survivor, opened the conference with the story of how she was injured in an accident 30 years ago. She recounted the journey that brought her to the Phoenix Society and how she benefited from the organizations core activities – peer support, education and advocacy.
I met Amy when NFPA began the Fire Safe Cigarette Coalitionin 2006. The Phoenix Society signed on to help bring the personal stories of the impact of fire to the debate to require cigarette manufacturers to produce and sell only cigarettes that are less likely to cause fires. In just a few years, every state passed such legislation and according to recent NFPA data, we are already seeing a significant decrease in the leading cause of home fire deaths. Those voices made a difference.
When NFPA launched the Fire Sprinkler Initiative, a project to increase home fire sprinkler requirements, we again joined with the Phoenix Society to help tell the stories of the devastating consequences of home fires and how such tragedies can be avoided with the inclusion of home fire sprinklers in new construction. NFPA facts and figures were complimented with the Faces of Fire Campaign, which profiles individuals whose lives have been changed by fire. Some are burn survivors. Others are firefighters, building officials and builders. Many of those “faces” came to us with the assistance of the Phoenix Society. Those voices continue to make a difference.
The World Burn Congress is a poignant reminder that fire prevention should be top of mind and top of action every day of the year. But with Fire Prevention Week just around the corner there is an opportunity to make sure we are doing everything we can to reduce the number of people who need the services of the Phoenix Society and all the other groups working so hard to help those whose lives have been altered by fire.