he vision that usually comes to mind when one hears a fire alarm is flames and smoke, but smoke and carbon monoxide alarms both beep and chirp. Both sounds are an indication to take action. Knowing the sounds of these life-saving devices and what to do when an alarm sounds is what firefighters across the country have been stressing to everyone during Fire Prevention Week.
This year’s campaign “Learning the Sounds of Fire Safety!” is all about keeping families safe by teaching everyone the basics of fire safety, especially knowing that a beeping sound is signaling everyone inside the home to get out, while a chirping sound is an indication the battery inside the detector must be replaced.
To drive this message home, firefighters from the Riverside Fire Department hosted an open house featuring hands-on demonstrations, tours, and carnival-style activities Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Keith Payne, assistant fire chief and fire marshal with the Riverside Fire Department, said it’s important to take a few appropriate precautions in case you encounter a fire, including installing and maintaining a smoke detector, as well as having a home escape plan.
In the parking lot, a dozen firefighters demonstrated how all the equipment works at various hands-on stations. Three-year-old Gunner of Riverside was allowed to get behind the wheel of a pumper truck and sprayed water on a small-scale mock home.
While young children got a unique opportunity to play firefighter for the day, they more importantly learned the basics of fire safety and became better prepared if faced with an actual fire.
“If you have small children, they need to know ahead of time–what to do and where to go–if they encounter a fire,” said Payne. Children should also be reminded of the life-saving instruction of “stop, drop, and roll.”
Gordon Fowlston, fire chief with the Riverside Fire Department, said simply closing your bedroom door each night is one of the best pieces of advice he can give people.
“I have seen house fires where a bedroom is completely void of any smoke, because the residents kept their bedroom shut,” said Fowlston.
Fowlston said fires can triple in size about every two minutes, largely because of the flammable oil-based and nylon materials inside most homes.
“When certain modern materials are heated it can cause a flashover, which means everything in a room hits its ignition temperature and automatically ignites. Nobody survives a flashover. So, if you have a fire, even if you have a fire extinguisher, we tell people to immediately get out of the house,” said Payne.
Firefighters, who put their lives on the line every day, also have become increasingly aware of the health hazards associated with coming into contact with contaminants.
“Today, our biggest concern for firefighter safety is cancer,” said Payne. “Our firefighters have two sets of bunker gear. Anytime we fight a fire, firefighters go through a gross decontamination on the scene, where they are sprayed down really good. Afterwards, they place their gear in a plastic bag and bring it back to the station, where it is placed into a laundry machine. ”
Another miracle invention fire departments get to utilize is thermal imaging cameras.
Previously, a firefighter’s main defense against passing out and becoming undetected was a PASS device. The Personal Alert Safety System is attached to a pack and will beep if a firefighter remains motionless for a period of 30 seconds, explained Payne. During training missions in large warehouses, the fire department realized the PASS device sometimes had a limitation.
“We found with the PASS device, when you have a large area, the sound will echo. This makes it difficult to find the firefighter. That’s why we also use thermal imaging cameras to help locate people in the dark.”
On the heels of the drought in the West, wildfires have burned through millions of acres of land. So far, more than 44,000 wildfires have blazed 5.3 million acres, devastating families and communities. In certain conditions it doesn’t take much for a fire to erupt. Behind the scenes of these wildfires, businesses and local economies have been ground to a halt.
Everyday firefighters spring into action and extinguish fires that pose a danger to life and property. During Fire Prevention Week, not only it is important to be reminded about how to prevent fires, but also recognize the brave firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.