As the sun set on the soccer fields next to the Berlin Community Center on Wednesday, Oct. 2, daylight was saying goodbye as American flags waved back, dangling from ladders raised by fire trucks in the nearby parking lot.
The night would once again be host to the annual Fire Prevention and Safety Night, hosted by Berlin Borough, where local municipalities and their fire departments, with other assorted emergency responders, can get together to have fun while teaching both adults and children about proper precautions and actions before and after emergencies.
The night, typically one most borough children and students look forward to due its activities, came complete with a bounce house, music, games and more – enough to fully entice a child’s curiosity.
More importantly, the night also featured the opportunity for children to use a real fire hose, with assistance from a firefighter, to knock down wooden cutouts of flames around a fake house. Additionally, the night also featured a K-9 demonstration, an interactive and educational smokehouse activity and more.
The interactive educational component that can be instilled from the night served as its largest benefit, teaching children and adults the importance of practicing fire prevention, having an escape plan, knowing what to do in an emergency and more.
“This is a great opportunity for us to provide public education having to do with fire prevention issues and safety issues around the home,” Administrator Bill Behnke said. “The fire safety trailer introduces children with how to react when they encounter smoke in the home. We teach them to stay low and find an exit. Through the trailer, they’ll see smoke and hear the detectors go off, it gives them the opportunity to see how they should react safely in that situation.”
In anticipation of more than 500 children attending the night during the two-hour event at the Berlin Community Center, Berlin Fire Company Chief Mike Kernan says his department focuses on meeting, speaking and interacting with students as much as possible, especially during this time of year.
“It’s to familiarize townspeople with the equipment that we have available to help them,” said Kernan. “We want to show really the whole county what we can do and how we can help and do in various ways. It’s the whole community coming together to raise awareness about fire safety. We’ll be in the schools all month, but doing this outside of it is very important as well.”
Each year, the night features a special presentation from the Berlin Fire Company to highlight a different fire issue, with this year’s topic being Christmas tree safety, getting proper care and precautions to residents before the winter season.
“We want to show what can happen in your house if you don’t water your Christmas tree,” said Kernan. “We have a dry Christmas tree prop set up and we ‘accidently’ set it on fire in a controlled environment, and then people can see what happens if you have a live tree and you don’t take care of it. With extension cords and a dry tree in general, they’ll see what can happen in a matter of seconds.”
If events, such as a Christmas tree fire, were to occur in a resident’s house, Kernan says he recommends calling the local fire department right away and getting loved ones out of the house as quickly as possible.
Furthermore, the night can also facilitate as a way to increase volunteer numbers for local departments. According to Kernan, the department gained a volunteer due to Fire Prevention and Safety Night last year.
“We show the community what we have and what we can do,” Kernan said. “We did gain a volunteer from last year’s event and he’s become a major contributor to our volunteer service, which is a huge bonus. But we’re mostly here to educate the public and we hope that they get something out of tonight.”