FORT LEE, Va. – In support of the Fire Prevention Week observance set for Oct. 3-9, Garrison Commander Col. Karin L. Watson officially endorsed a 2021 FPW Proclamation Monday, declaring Fort Lee’s commitment to meeting the goals of the awareness campaign.
The colonel offered her “heartfelt thanks” to the numerous firefighters who had assembled for the signing that took place in an open bay of Fire Station 2. Watson acknowledged the professionalism of Fort Lee’s first responders and their dedication to “protecting the community day and night, 365 days a year.”
Sparky the Fire Dog joined Watson at the event and placed his official “paw stamp” on the proclamation as well. An opening line of the document read, “Fire is a serious public safety concern both locally and nationally, and homes are the locations where people are at greatest risk from fire.” It made note of the 339,500 home fires nationwide in 2019 and the 2,770 people who died in those incidents, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The proclamation also highlighted the theme of the 2021 FPW observance, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety.” Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in home fires in half, emphasizes the NFPA. They alert residents immediately upon detecting smoke, which has proven to be a crucial benefit in fire emergencies that, on average, give home residents only a matter of 2-3 minutes to escape safely.
“It’s important to learn the different sounds of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms,” noted Fort Lee Fire Chief Phil Wilkinson. “When an alarm makes noise – a beeping sound or a chirping sound – you must take action! Make sure everyone in the home understands the sounds of the alarms and knows how to respond. To learn the sounds of your specific smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, check the manufacturer’s instructions that came in the box, or search the brand and model online.”
Individuals and families also must create and practice a fire escape plan, as noted in the FPW proclamation. As part of this process, the NFPA recommends identifying more than one escape route; rehearsing actions like feeling doors for heat before opening them; keeping low to the floor where there is more breathable air in smoke-filled rooms; and doing drills in low-light conditions as many fires occur overnight.
“Fort Lee residents should be sure everyone in the home (or other living and working areas) understands the sounds of alarms and knows how to respond. … (Those) who are responsive to public education measures are better able to take personal steps to increase their safety from fire,” passages of the proclamation also read.
The Fort Lee Fire Department has scheduled a series of FPW events to promote awareness and education. They include fire truck displays and tours with Sparky the Fire Dog at Child Development Centers on the CYS campus Oct. 4-7. Daily displays also are set for the Main Exchange on Oct. 6, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.; PXtra on Oct. 7, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.; and Commissary on Oct. 8, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Additionally, the fire department will participate in the annual Pumpkin Patch events in the family housing neighborhoods on post. Follow the social media page www.facebook.com/fortleefamilyhousing for more info on those activities.
In support of the 2021 FPW theme, the fire department also offers the following tips about smoke alarms and the sounds they make:
• A continuous set of three loud beeps means smoke or fire: evacuate, call 9-1-1 and stay out of the building
• A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed
• Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced
• All smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years
• Make sure smoke and CO alarms meet the needs of all family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities
Fort Lee community members are encouraged to check out the website nfpa.org/fpw for additional fire prevention awareness and preparation information. The site includes safety tip sheets for display, video PSAs, lesson plans for learning about fire safety, and games and downloadable apps.