Patricia Mieszala, RN, is president of Burn Concerns, National Consultant and Education Services. She is past chair of the executive board of NFPA’s Education Member Section and formerly NFPA’s lead public education and Southwest regional advisor. Pat is nationally and internationally recognized in the areas of psychiatry, burn care, rehabilitation, fire and life safety, youth firesetting, and injury prevention.
As a charter member of the multi-disciplined group to establish the first full week of February as National Burn Awareness Week, an opportunity for all burn, fire, and life safety educators to unite and share burn awareness and prevention messages in communities throughout the U.S., I’d like to share with you the evolution of this commemorative week.
While many professionals committed to burn care, rehabilitation, and prevention felt a need for burn survivors to have a stronger voice, efforts were scattered and sporadic. In 1985 Burn Awareness Week was proclaimed in Los Angeles and in the state of Nevada through the efforts of the Institute for Fire & Burn Education and Burn Care International.
A movement for a national focus gained momentum. In 1986, a press conference was held in Washington, D.C., where the first National Burn Awareness Week was proclaimed.
Even today, the burn death and injury problem is still not as well known to the general public as it should be, although burn survivors have made their challenges and successes better known through organizations such as The Phoenix Society, and the American Burn Association. Government leaders, the medical community, the fire service, private industry, and the public at large can work together to heighten awareness.
Here’s what the fire safety and burn prevention communities can do:
- Identify the target burn issues, hazards, behaviors and ages involved in burn deaths and injuries in your community.
- Share with the public NFPA public education materials, including smoke alarm and cooking safety information, safety tips sheets, community toolkits, education programs, and Sparky the Fire Dog® materials.
- Design, develop, implement and evaluate an awareness campaign utilizing support from local business and industry, media, the fire service, medical experts, and burn survivors.
- Inform local and state government leaders of the burn death/injury issues and proposed strategies and solutions.
Together, leaders in the fire safety and burn prevention fields can increase understanding of the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma of burn injuries and increase awareness of fire and burn prevention.