ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - More than 500 people took in fire prevention lessons, organization displays and entertainment during the 2010 Community Awareness Day activities at the Directorate of Emergency Services building Oct. 9.

The event is held annually in conjunction with National Fire Prevention Week. Festivities included displays by Aberdeen Proving Ground organizations, a fire fighting demonstration, the Youth Firefighter Combat Challenge, emergency medical demonstrations, vehicle and equipment displays and music, face painting, a stilt walker and balloon art by Nuthin' Up My Sleeve Entertainment.

In addition, the Maryland National Guard provided a UH-60 Blackhawk and entomologists from the U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional) provided an insect display.

The event also kicked off the Domestic Violence Awareness Month's purple ribbon campaign and a birthday celebration and cake cutting for McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog. Special guest Sparky the Fire Dog also made an appearance.

Participating organizations included the Army Substance Abuse Program, Child, Youth and School Services, Community Policing, Army Community Service, and Installation Safety.

Parents and children said they enjoyed the festivities.

"We came last year and they didn't want to miss this," said Tony Saponaro, a contractor with the U.S. Developmental Test Command who brought his grandchildren, Nicholas, 10 and Lucas, 5.

"It's important for children to see the damage a fire can do," said Jeri Smith, a human resources assistant with the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center after she and her son Jerry, 10, watched the firefighting demonstration. "Something like this will make you think twice about playing with matches," she said.

Wendy Chaney, a research engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, said she tries to make all APG Family events as she watched her daughter, Emma, 6, go through the combat challenge.

"Things like this give you a really great sense of community," she said.

"Children remember better when they have fun learning," added Vera Wyatt, an administrative assistant with the Garrison Public Affairs Information Office as she registered her granddaughter Shadawn, 6, for the combat challenge. "Every time she looks at her certificate she'll remember what she learned here today."

Fire Inspector Chris Starling chaired the organization committee for the event. He thanked all planners involved, particularly Scott and Farlow, who he said were a "huge help."

"They had been on previous committees and they stepped in and provided valuable input."

Starling also thanked all participating APG organizations including the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center for its vehicle and static displays, the USAPHC entomologists and the MDNG as well as and Nuthin' Up My Sleeve Entertainment.

Starling said more than 90 children received certificates for completing the Youth Combat Challenge and that several parents asked about home sprinkler systems after the sprinkler demonstration.

He said that while most new homes in Central Maryland come equipped with sprinkler systems it is scheduled to become a Maryland law in 2011.

"Currently, twenty-seven municipalities in Maryland require sprinkler systems," he said, adding that while the new law will not affect existing homes, systems can be retrofitted for homes without the systems.

Starling said that APG firefighters do all they can to spread the word about fire prevention. Their public outreach spans five counties in three states.

"We've really developed a good program for educating children and now we'd like to do more to ensure the message is being passed on to parents. They are the ones responsible for checking smoke alarms and establishing meeting points.

"Smoke alarms really do save lives," he added. "We offer voluntary home fire inspections. We check your smoke alarms, show you how to change batteries, walk you through evacuation steps and help you set up a meeting point."

APG firefighters also will conduct fire drills in APG buildings during October, Starling said. This includes inspecting fire extinguishers, fire alarms and evacuation plans.

"Every building should have an evacuation plan but they do not have to be posted on the walls," he said. "In the event of a fire, follow the "Exit" signs.

"Always call 911 in the event of a fire," he said. "If calling from a cell phone, make sure you tell the operator you're calling from Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland because operators outside of this area may take the call."

Cell phone callers on post can also call 410-278-7220 in the Aberdeen Area and 410-436-2117 in the Edgewood Area. All other users should call 9-1-1.

Starling noted that the 2010 Community Awareness Day was the first one held after the death of Doug Farrington, former APG fire inspector who passed away suddenly in September.

"This was Doug's legacy," he said. "This was his event and he accomplished a lot more than just fire prevention. I think everybody might have thought about him that day. I know I did and I hope we did him proud."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16