Fire Department personnel disseminate fire safety information to the Fort McCoy community in a variety of ways, such as safety meetings, fire extinguisher classes, on-site inspections and by the newest team members Patches the Fire Dog and his trusty fire engine, Pumper.

The remote controlled robot and mock fire engine equipment, which is supported by fire department personnel providing voice and movement, proved to be a hit with children from the Fort McCoy Child Development Center (CDC) in early April.

The event was held in conjunction with the Child Youth and School Services Month of the Military Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month activities.

The dog read the story "If You Gave a Mouse a Cookie" to several groups of children from the CDC. Children paid extra close attention to Patches, who was assisted by Fort McCoy Fire Inspector Curt Ladwig.

"Patches and Pumper were a hit when we had them at our Christmas party for the children," Ladwig said. "The dog patterns his language after a real-life firefighter."

With the assistance of his human friends from the Fire Department, Patches also is very knowledgeable about fire-safety matters.

His animated visual effects of turning his head, blinking his eyes, running the siren and flashing emergency light on the fire engine, and ability to deliver a water spray also help re-enforce his fire-safety messages and connect with audiences of all ages.

"Patches can talk about fire safety steps to take in the home," Ladwig said. "He also can talk about fire safety in the workplace."

Good fire safety often is a matter of having an escape plan - with two or more escape routes - and knowing and preparing what to do in case of a fire, Ladwig said.

These can include such things as knowing how to use fire extinguishers and how to check electrical equipment and sources for any hazards.

Taking steps to prevent fires and eliminate potential hazards also is important, Ladwig said. Smoke detectors should be used; batteries checked regularly and replaced on at least a yearly basis.

Another important part of fire safety is to practice escape procedures so everyone in the family knows what to do in case of a fire and where to meet after they have evacuated a building, he said.

Patches and Pumper will play a VIP role in getting the fire safety message out to the work force. Ladwig said Patches is very personable and can tailor his message to any group that might be interested in hearing him speak ... er talk.

Patches is scheduled to make public appearances at Fort McCoy's Health and Wellness Fair May 13 and at Armed Forces Day Open House May 16 to spread more information about fire safety. For more information about scheduling a visit/presentation about fire safety from Patches and Pumper and/or Fire Department safety personnel, call the Fire Department at 608-388-4077.

Fire safety information, as well as general safety information for the Fort McCoy work force, also is available by calling the Installation Safety Office at 608-388-3403 or visiting the Safety Section on the McCoy Extranet, which is accessible from the public Web site