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Fire Safety: Hear the BEEP where you sleep

(courtesy photo by National Fire Prevention Association)

(courtesy photo by National Fire Prevention Association)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Fire safety begins with everyone. Education, situational awareness and a little bit of common sense go a long way in keeping each and every Airman safe.

Oct. 4-10 is Fire Prevention Week and the Peterson Air Force Base Fire Emergency Services is partnering with the National Fire Protection Association to provide events throughout the week to educate Airmen on fire prevention to keep their families safe.

"Fire prevention is the number one goal of the fire department," said Staff Sgt. Derrick Grinnell, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector. "That's actually our mission, not firefighting."

While they aim to educate everyone either living or working on Peterson, their target audience is children, said Staff Sgt. Sean Willeford, 21st CES fire inspector. Instilling an understanding of basic fire safety knowledge can help save lives, which a young girl did earlier this year on Peterson when she called 9-1-1 after her mom collapsed of chest pains, likely saving her life.

"From the training we gave at her school, she was able to call 9-1-1 and have us respond on base," Willeford said.

The fire department often goes to schools to educate classes about fire prevention and what to do in the case of emergencies. Tips usually taught to kids include: stop, drop and roll; get low and crawl; know your name and parents' names, phone number and address;  and where to go in the event of an emergency.

The biggest take-away is for children to not be afraid or hide from a firefighter. Willeford said they try to dress up in the whole fire-fighting ensemble every time they give a tour so kids know what it looks like and to not be scared.

"We let them see us before we put it on," Grinnell said. "They watch us put it on so they know it's just a regular person."

The tips firefighters teach to children are good for adults to know, but there are additional things for adults to keep in mind. Willeford said all too often the cause of fires on base is unattended cooking, not cleaning out lint traps, not putting out cigarette butts and overloading electrical outlets.

With national statistics to back up what happens on base, the NFPA states the leading cause of home fire-related injuries is cooking related and the leading cause of home fire-related deaths is due to smoking materials.

In addition to that, 75 percent of Americans have a fire escape plan, but only half of them have practiced it. Grinnell said the importance of an escape plan cannot be over-stressed.

"For Airmen in the dorms, find the nearest exit, pull the pull-station, and call 9-1-1," Grinnell said. "In homes, we encourage them to not only have a plan, but practice it - actually get the kids to go through the motions."

Make sure to have more than one way out as well, in the front and back of the house, Willeford added.

The other thing stressed is the importance of having working smoke alarms in the home. NFPA reported roughly half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep.

That's why NFPA's theme this year is "hear the beep where you sleep" to bring awareness to the importance of having at least one working smoke detector on each level of the home and also one in each bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area.

Similarly, Willeford said the carbon monoxide detectors are just as important.

"(Carbon monoxide) can kill you just as fast as a fire can," he said.

The key to avoiding injury or death due to a fire is a thorough knowledge of fire safety and having good situational awareness. Practicing fire safety can save lives.

"Prevention starts with everybody," Grinnell said.

Fire Prevention Week Events:

Oct. 7 - Child Development Center Visit (Bldg. 1350 & 2004), 9 a.m. - noon

Oct. 9 - Fire Department sponsored Fire Muster at The Club, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Requires teams of four to participate in a smaller version of the Fireman's Challenge and allows participants to get a taste of what firefighters do every day. Challenges include: midnight wake-up call, dummy pull, Kiser sled, hand over hand pull, bucket brigade and hose pull/knock cone off.

Oct. 5,6,8 - Home fire safety checks with pizza, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. - Peterson AFB Fire Emergency Services partnered with The Club and Terra Vista housing community to offer pizza with fire safety checks. If the pizza arrives on a fire truck, the fire fighters will request to check their home for working smoke alarms. If the smoke alarms work, the pizza is free. (Terra Vista will supply new batteries if needed)

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