The first full week of October is designated as National Fire Prevention Week, but the Sedalia Fire Department is encouraging people to make fire prevention a focus year-round.
Many schools and organizations use October as a month to put a focus on fire prevention, which makes it a busy month for the Sedalia Fire Department as its employees give presentations and classes around town and give station tours.
“We’ll respond to any request for a class or presentation,” said Sedalia Fire Chief Greg Harrell. “We try to really do that year-round…We teach fire safety classes to anyone who wants them. We do a lot of industry in town. We try to stay really active around here. We like to meet the needs. We can’t force ourselves on people. We go talk to these groups and we put the word out, you know if you want a fire safety class call us. If you want free smoke detectors call us. If you want help just remembering where to locate smoke detectors call us. We’re always available.”
SFD Administrative Capt. Daniel Shaw said they host all-school fire drills at each school they visit, but they put a special focus on second-graders.
“With second grade we pull our trailer over there and it’s set up with a kitchen and a living room with the fireplace and a bedroom,” Shaw explained. “We ask, ‘Does anybody see problems in here?’ Usually, they can point out the top five of them and then we point out a few more.
“At second grade is, I guess, kind of the right age to comprehend that part of it,” he continued. “They're still young enough that we make an impression on them, but they’re old enough to really understand the basics of like not playing with matches.”
Some of the main points the department tries to make in presentations include stop, drop and roll, regularly checking smoke detector batteries, the importance of having two ways out of a structure, not playing with matches, and home escape plans. People should also consider the possibility of a fire when they are securing their homes.
“People put more and more deadbolt locks on their house doors and we come up with homes that have burglar bars on the windows…” Harrell said. “Everything you do to make it tougher for burglars to get in makes it tougher for us to get in and tougher for you to get out.”
Having a meeting place for the household is especially important, according to Shaw. He said it’s also important that whoever escapes the home is able to tell firefighters how many people are still inside.
“Then we know we have someone to look for,” he said. “If everybody is outside of the house, it changes it for us…If we know 100% that everybody’s out it allows us to go in and attack the fire immediately.”
SFD members also try to show kids what the firefighters look like in their full gear since it can be frightening for them at first.
“We want them to know that’s what we’re going to look like,” Shaw said. “If they’re hiding from us because they’re scared of us it’s going to be hard to find them.”
The department uses materials from the National Fire Safety Council’s Firepup program. The program collects donations from area businesses and organizations which the department can use to buy the materials. The funds carry over each year and last year the department had accumulated enough funds to buy a new fire pup costume. This year the department also has a full-time fire inspector with regular hours to do the presentations day to day, which brings continuity to them, according to Shaw.
Harrell said the presentations are particularly important because the United States tends to spend more time on “fire suppression and dealing with the results of the fire than we do with prevention in the first place.” Every code enforcement can be traced to a specific incidence where there was a great loss of monetary value or the loss of life.
Harrel and Shaw both emphasized the importance of focusing on fire prevention all year long. Shaw said the department’s calendar fills up quickly during October because of National Fire Prevention Week.
“We see the big push during October with all of the national media attention on fire prevention,” added Harrell. “It’s really a 12-month program, not a one-month program. We do tours year-round... Fire prevention month is not about the fire department. It’s about getting the message out.”