If 9-1-1 are the numbers to know in a life-threatening emergency, here are the letters: CPR.

But while most people probably know that CPR stands for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, far fewer actually know how to perform it on someone who is in cardiac arrest.

This weekend is your chance to learn.

Free basic CPR classes are part of the Evanston Fire Department’s Emergency Preparedness Fair, at the Robert Crown Center on Saturday and Sunday.

Division Chief Kimberly Kull, the department’s head of Emergency Management, says the goal of the fair, which offers a lot more than just CPR classes, is to “build an awareness towards preparedness” in the community.

One problem is that many people fail to have a family escape plan on how to get out of a house or apartment in case of fire, gas leak, or natural disaster.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, only one in every three American households has such a plan and have practiced it.

Drawing up a plan may sound easy, but unless have rehearsed it, things could turn deadly if your dwelling fills with smoke and you don’t have a previously designed way to get out.

If possible, NFPA says you should know at least two ways out of every room, and also set a designated meeting place outdoors at a safe distance from the house, such as a tree or a light pole.

And if you have a pet, make sure you include an emergency plan for your Best Friend as well.

You should have accessible copies of your pet’s vaccination record, and also make sure the animal is microchipped, so the dog or cat can be identified if it runs away to escape a fire.

And have a photo of yourself with your pet. There’s probably one on your phone, which could help reunite you with the pet should you become separated, and a stranger finds the animal.

This all may sound like a lot, but consider the alternative if you don’t plan.

One simple but creative way to store information is what the city calls the File of LIFE (Lifesaving Information For Emergencies).

It’s a single page form with your name, medical history, allegies, doctor’s information, and emergency contacts.

The form goes into a plastic bag, which is then kept in your freezer. That may sound odd, but the freezer is often something which survives a fire or weather emergency.

It’s also possible to sign up for Evanston Emergency Alerts, text/email/or phone messages in case of significant police activity in your area, mandatory evacuation notices, and other safety alerts.

Besides the fire department, other emergency services will be at the Fair, to explain how they can help, and outline various safety practices.

And, along with CPR, there are sessions about such things as caring for the elderly and disabled, cybersecurity, and disaster recovery.

The events are all free, although pre-registration is required for the CPR classes.

Free emergency preparedness kits are also available, while supplies last.

The Fair is on Saturday from 10 a.m – 4 p.m., and Sunday from 10-2.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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