Fire Prevention Week: Start Small & Think Big

Mention "October" and you evoke thoughts of cool days, autumn leaves and Halloween. For firefighters, October also brings to mind Fire Prevention Week. Photo courtesy of Livonia Fire & Rescue As part of a fire department open house...

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Use a football helmet for the underlying structure of the mask. Buy a small supply of fiberglass and chicken wiring. Use the chicken wiring to form a mold of the dalmatian head, including the snout, around the helmet. Leave it open at the bottom so the wearer can get his/her head through. Cover the form with several layers of fiberglass to give substance and smoothness to the whole head of your new mascot. Cut out holes for the eyes and nose. Fill the eyes and nose with dark screening, available at fabric stores. Purchase "dalmatian fur" at the fabric store as well to make ears and a covering for the head. Cut out eyes and the nose. Make gloves from the same dalmatian fabric so that no skin is showing when the mascot makes its appearance. Have the wearer put on a clean turnout coat, pants and boots. This project can be completed with less than $100 in materials.

If you choose to make your own dalmatian mascot, stage a "Name the Pet Fire Dog" contest. Make up computer sheets for each citizen's name, phone number and suggested name for the pet fire dog.

Vehicle Extrication

A definite crowd pleaser that involves little cost is the vehicle extrication demonstration. Ask a local towing company or auto salvage yard to donate and drop off a vehicle with minor damage the day before your event and pick it up the day after your open house.

You may or may not choose to use a mock "victim" in the car to be surveyed, collared and backboarded during your demo. Either way, the crowd will be pleased with the cutting of the vehicle posts and flipping back of the roof onto itself, creating the convertible effect of the car.

Using Extinguishers

Some hands-on learning can take place when you teach adults to properly use portable fire extinguishers. You may wish to check with members of your fire safety education division to see how they conduct this type of training during the year.

You'll need a barrel or receptacle in which to burn your demo fire, a fuel to burn and a few fire extinguishers to use. A 55-gallon drum cut one to two feet up from the bottom works well for us. Paper works well to start the fire but for easy restarts after they are extinguished consider using a small amount of flammable liquid.

Briefly describe the classes of fires while recommending Class ABC fire extinguishers for the home, since most homes have all three classes of fuel in them. Then explain the "PASS" method for extinguisher use:

  • Pull the locking pin or tape.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the flames.
  • Squeeze the handles together.
  • Sweep from side to side at the base of the flames, ensuring that an exit remains to the back of the user at all times.

Have a backup plan in place, ready to implement if an emergency situation arises. This may mean a backup hoseline or a garden hose, as well as keeping a charged extinguisher in your possession at all times during the demonstration.

Apparatus Display

Fire apparatus, and lots of it, gives a breathtaking scene to people as they approach your open house. If possible, set up the ladders and towers to serve as a landmark to guests. Have several members willing to field questions and allow the guests to handle and explore several pieces of equipment in a safe manner.

Expect to be asked numerous questions about the apparatus. Make up an A-frame with a laminated sheet, introducing each piece of apparatus. Also include the "stats," such as year, make, model, price, pumping capabilities and any special equipment carried by it.

Check with your local contacts for the medical helicopter serving your area. Many of the companies will make special stops at fire department open houses but book them early. Also ask if any outside agencies that you deal with frequently have exhibits. Local hazardous materials response agencies, high-angle rescue teams, urban search and rescue teams, etc. may all be available.

Kitchen Fires

It's not necessary to actually have a kitchen fire to demonstrate how to extinguish one. Start with a pan and lid. Explain that small pan fires in the kitchen are common and there are many good actions that can be taken to keep that fire from spreading. The first and best action is to safely "put a lid on kitchen fires" by sliding the top over the pan, being sure to protect your hand and arm while doing so. Once the lid is covering the pan, turn off the burner. Explain that you have extinguished the flames by taking away the oxygen and by shutting off the heat.

Other good actions include the application of baking soda on top of the burning fuel or the use of a portable fire extinguisher rated for that class of fire (Class B).

The kitchen fire demonstration can be made to look better by having a stove available (it doesn't have to work). A local waste management company may deliver one to your door. Now, for no additional cost, you have added a realistic looking "prop" to your demonstration to give it the look of being in a real kitchen, confronted with a real fire.