Each year the second week of October is designated as Fire Prevention Week, also known as Fire Safety Week.
Firefighters, who are busy all year training, fighting fires, responding to other emergencies such as traffic accidents and rescues, and doing fund-raising, take on the additional public service function of educating the public – especially children – about fires, specifically fire prevention and safety.
The volunteers visit schools where they do talks and offer demonstrations.
They also host special programs at their respective stations, including open house events where they put on demonstrations and show off their apparatus.
The programs are pretty impressive.
For example, tonight in Lehighton from 6:30 to 8 p.m., there will be a combined program by Lehighton, Franklin Township, and Mahoning Township Fire Departments.
Franklin will have a "Safe House" on the site in which youngsters can crawl through and become more knowledgeable about fire safety.
Mahoning Township will have fire extinguisher exercises where children are assisted by firefighters on the actual extinguishing of fires.
Then tomorrow, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the Franklin Township Fire Department will have an open house. Joining the Franklin volunteers will be the Carbon County Emergency Management, Lehighton Ambulance Corps, and a medical helicopter.
The firefighters will demonstrate how they extricate car crash victims from their vehicles by cutting apart a vehicle.
Proper fire safety procedures are often taken for granted. Too many, in fact, believe that the chances of a fire affecting us personally are remote. The thinking is that they only happen to other people, not us. They only occur if we're careless, right?
The truth is that anyone can become a fire victim and therefore we must be prepared for any home emergency. Would your children know how to escape if your house caught fire in the middle of the night? Did you establish an exterior meeting point if your family has to flee a house fire so that you know everybody is safe and firefighters don't risk their lives searching unnecessarily?
Lehighton Fire Lieutenant Steve Ebbert points out that in 2009, 2,565 people died in home fires.
He said nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan, keeping things that can burn away from the stove and always turning off space heaters before going to bed.
You can learn a lot by attending Fire Prevention Week activities at your local fire department. More importantly, by taking your children to such events, they might learn things which could have life-saving implications should a fire occur.
By Ron Gower