GRATIS – The Gratis Fire Department joined forces with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) this past weekend to promote this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign. The theme for the event — which took place Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Gratis Fire Station — was “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!”
The event featured free food, an obstacle course and “Junior Firefighter” activity for the kids, and pamphlets on fire prevention and safety. Children present were dressed in colorful superhero-like costumes. Emergency vehicles from Gratis, Camden, West Elkton, and Montgomery Rescue and Rehab, as well as a CareFlight helicopter from Miami Valley Hospital, were on display.
In addition, local firefighters gave live demonstrations, including a simulated grain bin rescue. The event took place on Saturday between 3 and 7 p.m.
Gratis Fire Prevention Committee member Sarah Konnagan spoke a bit about the department’s reasons for organizing the event.
“We’ve always done an open house, but a few years ago we formed the committee to try and build it up,” Konnagan said. “Our goal is to have positive relationships with the people in our community, and this is one way that we try to accomplish that.”
The fire department wanted to find ways to get involved in the community and create a rapport with the people they serve, according to Konnagan.
“It’s become something the community looks forward to each year, and the kids love it,” Konnagan said.
According to a press release issued by the committee, statistics show that in 2017 U.S. fire departments responded to over 350,000 home structure fires. These fires caused thousands of deaths and an even greater number of injuries.
In a typical home fire, according to an NFPA statement, residents may have as little as one to two minutes to escape from the moment the smoke alarm sounds. Planning and practice can help make the most of that time.
As a result, the Gratis Fire Department emphasizes safety tips such as creating, and practicing, a Home Escape Plan, a detailed strategy for how everyone plans to escape the house in the event of a fire, as well as where to meet up with other family members afterward; the importance of installing and maintaining smoke detectors; and safe practices when it comes to burning trash and other material on one’s property.
The department’s mandate involves more than just addressing fire safety issues, however. Gratis Fire Chief Jeff King said that traffic safety is also a big concern.
“We’re seeing an increase in traffic incidents,” King said. “Everything is about traffic safety these days.”
King stressed the importance of watching out for large farm vehicles that may be on the road during this time of the year, as well as the dangers of distracted driving.
“We’re seeing more driver inattention than we have before,” King said. “These things aren’t getting better. They’re getting worse, and we don’t really know why.”
The importance of Fire Prevention Week, King said, is twofold.
“It’s about community outreach: about connecting with the community, and helping them learn that positive message of safety,” King said.