Every Fairfax County fire station held an open house Oct. 15 to celebrate Fire Prevention Week, welcoming community families into the stations and providing tours, education and children’s activities.
Each fire battalion sponsored a friendly competition among the stations to determine the best open house. The Great Falls Volunteer Fire Department was presented with this year’s award from the 1st Battalion.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme was “Fire Won’t Wait. Plan Your Escape.” The Great Falls Fire and Rescue Department demonstrated fire safety to its guests via several interactive activities. Kids could “extinguish” their body flames in a fun Stop, Drop and Roll mat activity, as well as hold and spray a real fire hose to “knock out” the fire in a display house.
Station personnel informed adult attendees about a new county initiative, “Community Connect,” which allows residents to securely share as much or as little information with emergency responders regarding their residence, family members (including those with special needs). Program participants also can choose to list the location of family pets, plus other information that could be important for responders during a fire or other emergency.
The station also performed free on-site blood-pressure screenings, and volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provided instruction on two-step CPR. Many enthusiastic attendees were surprised at the simplicity of the new American Heart Association hands-only version of CPR for bystanders.
Kids also sat at a “quiet table” where they solved fire-escape puzzles, read board books about fire trucks and ambulances, colored in take-home fire-prevention booklets, and received fire-related temporary tattoos and Great Falls crested fire helmets.
EMTs helped children into the ambulance for a tour and allayed fears about possible real-life rides in the vehicle. The biggest hit might have been “Sparky the Fire Dog,” who walked around handing out treats from an old-fashioned fire bucket and posing for family photos.
Volunteer EMT Leslie Smith, who chaired the event, said her goals were to welcome neighbors to their community’s fire station and provide fire-safety and emergency medical information in an non-intimidating way.
“I hope residents will feel free to reach out to the department if they have questions or want more information about fire safety or health measures they can take to protect themselves,” she said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, communities across the nation observe Fire Prevention Week during the week of Oct. 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began Oct. 8, 1871, and killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.
President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the nation’s longest-running public-health observance.