FIRE SAFETY: From preventing fires to escaping them, open house teaches real skills
Friday, October 18, 2013
Ninety pizzas later, the Bedford Fire Department’s annual open house came to a close.
Throughout the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 8, kids and adults alike had dispatched all but 10 of 100 pizzas ordered for the event and vast amounts of cotton candy, popcorn and fruit drinks.
The victuals were secondary rewards to an abundance of information about fire prevention. The fire department’s personnel taught life-saving tactics for preventing a fire or escaping from one. Visual and hands-on exhibits and printed materials helped drive the messages home.
Home evacuation plans were discussed and families were encouraged to decide on a meeting place where all would gather in an emergency. One parent reported that her son was already well aware of the importance of the evacuation plan. He had visited his grandparents recently and had asked, “What is your escape route?”
A demonstration on home evacuation plans was made with a replica of a bedroom inside a specially outfitted trailer. Kids and parents learned how to crawl along the floor, beneath clouds of simulated smoke. They made an escape through a a window in the rear of the trailer. Some lined up to go through a second time.
Bedford Fire Capt. Kevin Murray, head of the Fire Prevention and Inspections departments, said he was pleased with the number of extended family units – parents, children, grandparents and their grandchildren – who attended this year’s event.
“We saw full families come out,” Murray said. “It’s the best representation for us to get the word out on fire prevention. Having both parents or grandparents here makes it easy for everyone to get the same messages.”
The immense garage that usually houses the department’s ladder trucks and emergency vehicles was cleared of the apparatus for the event. The space was lined instead with exhibits manned by representatives of organizations and companies focused on safety, health, fire prevention, emergency communications and more.
Murray, coordinator of the event, thanked dozens that attended. Vendors offered informational giveaways, such as a tick ID Card provided by Atlantic Pest Solutions. It was the size of a credit card and bore images of common ticks, including those that carry Lyme disease. A notched corner on the card was designed to slip beneath an embedded tick and dislodge it intact.
Elsewhere, kids collected buttons sporting the slogan, “Help Smokey Prevent Wildfires.” Wanda S. Bowers, public information representative for the state of New Hampshire’s Bureau of Emergency Communications, offered brochures containing easy instructions about using 911 on cell phones, voice-over-Internet phones, and cell phones designed for children. Helpful related websites listed included www.911voip.org and www.nena.org.
Matt Racicot, of Son’s Chimney Services & Stove Shop, was on hand to share tips about maintaining a chimney. He said that annual chimney and stove maintenance help ensure safety. He emphasized that an annual inspection and cleaning is one of the easiest things a homeowner can do to prevent a fire in the chimney.
“Regular cleaning means less buildup in a chimney,” Racicot said. “The buildup of creosote leads to chimney fires.”
Elsewhere, Smokey Bear, sometimes known as firefighter and paramedic Eric Dubowik, was on the scene, as was Sparky the Fire Dog, animated by Rebecca Shatney, the daughter of fire department staffer Lt. Mark Shatney. The mascots posed for photos with dozens of children.
The event featured rides on antique and modern-day fire engines, hands-on demonstrations of CPR, water-rescue equipment and many other diversions.
Children took turns careening through an obstacle course representing the convoluted structures encountered at some fire scenes. At the end, they grabbed a hose and squirted water at a plywood facade painted to look like the front of a house. A well aimed fusillade knocked down a set of spring-loaded flames made from wood painted red.
Cub Scout Tommy Rilee, 6, of Bedford, said that squirting the faux flames was “real fun.” His aim was excellent. Others, alas, occasionally sprayed volunteers and bystanders with water.
Fire Inspector Scott Hunter, who helped coordinate the event, said the open house was “the best ever.” He said the gathering of the community with the intent of meeting fire personnel and learning how to stay safe at home, in school or in the workplace, was a goal well realized.
“The people coming here in such numbers made this a real success,” Hunter said. “This event gives everyone a chance to meet their firemen and other personnel like the EMTs and the police who were here with us. We enjoy meeting everyone in the community.”
The event drew rave reviews from parents, including Dave Hirsch, newly moved to Bedford from Andover, Mass. He works for Concord Emergency Medical Associates. He brought his youngsters, Grayson, 1, and Finley, 3. The kids said they most enjoyed sitting on a police motorcycle and taking a ride on the antique fire truck.
Hirsch said, “It was great to be here and have people meet each other and see what people have to offer.”
Regina and John MacArthur, of Hooksett, brought their son, Jonah, 4, looking splendid in a small sized bright red firefighters suit. They said he has always been one who “loves fire trucks.”
Jonah gave a thumbs-up to the ride on the truck, saying, “It went fast. I pulled on the horn.”
For more information on the Bedford Fire Department’s annual open house or other programs of the BFD, visit www.bedfordnh.org or call 472-3219.