By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
This week marks the observance of Fire Prevention Week (October 8-14).
This year’s theme is “Every Second Counts”, and truer words were never spoken. A matter of just a few seconds can make a difference in a safe escape versus a tragedy. Yet having working smoke alarms and a practiced escape plan (or two!) are often overlooked and not considered a priority.
For this reason, the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department tries to start delivering fire safety messages very early to young children in the local area.
SVFD Fire Chief Dylan Oliveto said, “We started our Fire Prevention Week campaign last week and we will concentrate on communicating this message throughout the month.”
They make their message ‘personal’, visiting local elementary and pre-school locations in person to stress fire safety – particularly reaching out to second graders and younger.
“We could go into the schools to talk to the kids, but in recent years, we think we’ve devised a better way. We actually go to the schools, pick up the kids in the firetruck, and drive them to the fire station. They get to tour our Ten House station, see what the firemen look like in their gear, and we think visiting with us on our turf helps them remember the message better,” Oliveto continued. “They are more likely to go home and say to their parents, ‘Guess what I did today’ … so with the children’s help, our message reaches the parents as well.”
He also added that many residential homes today are termed “lightweight construction”, meaning that a lot of 2 X 4’s and particle board are utilized rather than the heavier timber that was used in building years ago. Therefore, especially with manufactured homes and mobile homes, a fire may spread more quickly, will burn faster and hotter. This, once again, drives home the point that “Every Second Counts”!
All schools have policies in place for emergencies such as fires. With emergency plans in place, parents feel confident knowing that their children’s safety is being addressed at school. Still, many families don’t discuss what they would do if it happened at home.
“I wish I could say that every family has an escape plan in place and a designated assembly point in the event of a fire but, unfortunately, that is not the case. Some homes don’t have smoke detectors either, so we talk about that with our visiting school children as well,” Chief Oliveto said.
SVFD works with the Red Cross to provide smoke detectors to those who need them. And Oliveto noted that Capt. Cindy Murphy of the Clarksburg Fire Department works hard to see to it that all homes have smoke detectors and is diligent in trying to obtain grant funding to make sure this program stays alive.
Oliveto explained the ‘fear factor’, saying, “If your family experiences a fire, it can be frightening for everyone. Having a plan of action in advance with everyone knowing what to do is essential so that you can act quickly. Let’s face it, kids will be scared and may want to hide under a bed or in a closet. These are some of the things that families need to discuss. Hiding is not the thing to do; everyone needs to get out of the house and move quickly so that the firefighters can concentrate on putting out the fire without worrying about people being in danger inside.”
State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree offers the following recommendations:
- Draw a map of your home with all members of your household. Mark two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
- Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the daytime with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
- Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
- Close doors behind you as you leave; this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Once you get outside, stay outside! Never go back inside a burning building.
Chief Oliveto concluded, “The Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department always recommends changing the batteries in smoke alarms twice a year, and an opportune time to do that is when the time changes. Let that be your scheduled time to replace alarm batteries as a defensive precaution. Daylight Savings Time ends on November 5th, so keep that in mind, and if this triggers your mind, why not go ahead and take care of it now?”
If your residence is without smoke alarms, please contact SVFD at www.facebook.com/ShinnstonFire and ask for assistance.