School children in Wenham and Hamilton have been learning some potentially life-saving safety procedures with help from local firefighters.
On Wednesday night, the Wenham Fire Department held its annual open house, serving up hamburgers and hot dogs to families who dropped by to check out the S.A.F.E. fire safety trailer, to view the town's fire equipment and to meet their local firefighters.
Wenham firefighters brought the S.A.F.E. Trailer to Buker Elementary School earlier Wednesday and visited several other schools on Thursday. From there, the state-owned trailer - a converted RV - moves on to Hamilton.
The trailer, which operates under the Student Awareness of Fire Education program, calls attention to some common fire dangers that people may find in their own homes, such as carelessly placed electrical cords and a fireplace where flammable materials have been left too close.
Firefighter Christian Hassel demonstrated one of the other learning tools featured on the trailer - simulated "smoke" that adds a more realistic touch to lessons on how to survive in a fire. The trailer also features simulated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a small area where students can practice emergency 911 calls. Another realistic prop in the trailer is a door that heats up, helping to illustrate the dangers of opening doors during a fire.
Elsewhere, Chief Robert Blanchard and other fire department personnel greeted local families inside, with tables that included food, exhibits and fire safety information.
"Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your homes," advised Blanchard. "We talk a lot about having an evacuation plan for your home, with a meeting place for all family members.
The chief also pointed out that when the clocks change in the spring and fall, it's also time to replace the batteries in a home's smoke alarms.
While this week's open house was held in conjunction with National Fire Prevention Week, Wenham firefighters are active in the town's schools throughout the year. For example, Cap. Jeff Baxter noted that students in Hamilton and Wenham may soon have the opportunity to make videos for a statewide fire safety contest that would run on YouTube.
Baxter added that the students would work on a topic to be selected by the state fire marshal's office in the coming weeks, and that they will have the opportunity to win prizes, such as electronic equipment, for their schools.
Keeping smoke alarms operational is a key safety tip for any household. The National Fire Prevention Association reports that between 2003 and 2006, about two-thirds of home fire fatalities took place in structures where there were no working smoke alarms. About one-quarter of home fire fatalities during that period took place in houses where the alarms were installed but did not sound.
Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises homeowners to keep smoke alarms on every level of the house, including the basement. Other basic fire prevention tips include keeping flammable materials away from heating units, stovetops and other hot surfaces, and testing all smoke alarms once a month.