The firehouse’s featured advice: plan two ways out of every room.
Simulated smoke unfurled in the fall breeze as children maneuvered through a shadowy, hazy maze.
The escape demonstration was one of various events featured in Chews Landing Fire Department’s 2017 Fire Prevention Open House. The 108-year-old Gloucester Township fire house has been hosting the event for nearly two decades, expanding in attendance and activities every year.
“It keeps growing,” said Peter J. Urso, fire marshal of Gloucester Township Fire District №4. “More and more of the public comes out every year.”
Along with staple fire prevention features such as smoke detector consultations, Chews Landing’s open houses parallel the annual theme implemented by the National Fire Protection Association. The organization’s 2017 tip stresses “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out.”
This concept reverberated throughout the evening, as local children’s artwork hung on the firehouse walls expressing the necessity of establishing two ways out of every room. Elementary students from Chews Landing and Loring-Flemming were recognized at the open house for winning first-, second- and third-place prizes for their creative public service announcements. The winners are eligible to participate in county and state competitions. The top winner’s work will be transformed into a poster and distributed across the state.
Chews Landing Fire Marshal Kenny Young announced the second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade winners.
“You have to know two ways out of every room,” Young said. “And every second counts, so that means no playing around or crawling under your bed — get out and go.”
Inside the firehouse, attendees perused a three-fold poster board showing ways to map out a second exit from every room, including windows and backdoors. Firefighters recommend recognizing an alternative exit upon entering any room.
“Statistically, it shows that there’s more fatalities when people are trying to get out the same way they came in. No matter where you are in your house — know two ways out,” Urso said.
Urso advises parents to enforce their children with this lesson, teaching them to break the habit of relying on the front door.
This tip does not solely apply to homes but also schools and other public places.
“We also like to stress that out in public, like in the stores, don’t always go out the way you came in,” Urso said. “When you go into a store, look for that second means of egress. It’s a natural instinct for everyone to go out the same way they came in.”
Throughout the evening, when children weren’t climbing down ladders or trying on authentic firefighting gear, they gyrated in moonbounces and tried their hips at hoola hoops. But, they did not leave the firehouse without gaining at least a few vital messages.
“(Fire Prevention Week) reminds you of how critical it is for you to always check your smoke detectors,” firefighter Carl Lemmerman of Blackwood Fire Company said. “It’s good that you bring your kids. The little kids who don’t know about fire safety, we wanna show them that when there’s smoke in the house, you stay low, as low as you can get.”