A chilling video aired last week showing one of the worst possible emergency scenarios for American families and emergency personnel: An apartment fire with the desperate screams of a child trapped inside.
Fortunately, thanks to a Good Samaritan's heroic response, the story out of New York City did not end tragically. Horio Cretan, whose store is right next to the burning apartment building in the Bronx, rushed in to help after hearing the screams of the little boy trapped on the fourth floor.
By the time he was rescued, the boy was unconscious and a firefighter handed his limp body to Cretan who carried him to safety, using a curtain to shield his body from the falling debris. When he reached the ground, he immediately began giving the boy CPR.
Thanks to Cretan's heroic assistance, the boy survived.
The works of Good Samaritans like Cretan should be reported on more these days. Beyond the spontaneous acts of heroism that sometimes accompany tragedies, however, are the practical reminders about fire safety and emergency training like CPR.
Today, Pennsylvanians are one again reminded to take simple steps to prevent house fires during Fire Prevention Week, which runs through Oct. 10. Gov. Edward Rendell says this year's theme focuses on burn awareness and prevention, and should be a reminder to evaluate our homes for safety issues.
Last year, U.S. fire departments responded to more than 1.4 million fires. It was reported that a fire occurs in a residential home every 78 seconds and home fires caused 2,755 civilian deaths.
State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann says many fires can be prevented by taking practicing good safety techniques, such as extinguishing all smoking materials thoroughly, leaving a stove unattended, and not wearing loose-fitting clothing that dangles over the stove and could easily catch fire.
Mann says household members who have a fire escape plan that they review and practice regularly have a much greater chance of surviving a fire since each person in the home knows what to do and where to go.
Installing smoke alarms is the single most important step in order to prepare for a fire. Properly working smoke alarms are said to decrease your chances of dying in a fire by 50 percent.
Other valuable steps to take include: Making sure electrical cords are in good condition - not frayed or with wires exposed; having curtains, bedding and flammable furniture all away from any portable heater or fireplace; making sure your clothes dryer vent is not clogged with lint and other debris; having the furnace and fireplace chimney annually inspected and cleaned.
For more information on fire services in the state, visit www.osfc.state.pa.us.
By Jim Zbick