HomeWashington Twp. News'It's important to have a plan'

‘It’s important to have a plan’

Fire prevention coordinator Adam Seczech gives a fire safety presentation at Bells Elementary School on Oct. 10 (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

The Washington Township Fire Department takes fire prevention week seriously. This might read like an obvious statement, but the WTFD goes above and beyond to ensure residents are up-to-date on fire safety knowledge. In the words of fire prevention coordinator Adam Seczech, fire doesn’t discriminate.

October is fire prevention awareness month, and every day since the first of the month, Seczech has posted a video on the WTFD Facebook page with a “Fire safety tip of the day.” Topics covered have included “close before you doze,” which teaches residents to close their bedroom door at night as a fire safety exercise, to showing off different stickers residents can obtain to put on their homes in case of fire. Some examples of stickers are “Tot finder,” which alerts firefighters there could be a child in the house, “Pet finder,” which is the same but for pets and a new sticker, “Occupant with autism.”

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“That allows emergency responders to identify those occupants with autism, we handle it a different way,” Fire Chief Pat Dolgos said. “Sometimes our radios might be loud and that may trigger some of their issues, so what we tend to do when we see these stickers, we’ll take the extra step to make sure our radios are turned down, make sure we communicate with them at a different level.”

Any of these stickers can be picked up at your local fire station. For more information, call (856) 863-4005.

When it comes to educating the community on a larger scale, the WTFD will host its annual Fire Prevention Halloween Party on Oct. 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. at its Fries Mill Road station. Children are encouraged to show up in their Halloween costume to this fun, educational event.

“We have food, snacks, candy. More importantly, we have a lot of educational opportunities for the people,” Dolgos said of the event.

He added this is the second year his department received a grant to build side-by-side rooms to set on fire as a burn demonstration. One room will have a residential sprinkler system, which is similar to the one running through commercial buildings, and one will not. This demonstration shows how fast a room can flash over, or become totally engulfed in flames.

“A firefighter will do a demonstration on fire behavior and why it’s important to have a plan [to escape] because fire doubles in size every 30 seconds when it’s free burning,” Dolgos continued.

Dolgos said needing an escape plan is a big part of this year’s National Fire Protection Association’s theme for fire prevention month – “Not every hero wears a cape, plan and practice your escape.” This is the message Seczech is preaching to the children in the school district when the department gives presentations throughout October.

“You should practice in home fire drills twice a year – once at day and once at night,” Seczech said.

In addition to preaching the importance of knowing an escape plan in case of a fire, Seczech teaches the children that smoke is just as dangerous as fire, if not worse, noting smoke hurts or kills more people each year than fire ever does.

He shows children the difference between life 40 years ago compared to today. There’s a video which shows a house with 1980’s furniture and curtains. When set on fire, this room takes anywhere from 17 to 20 minutes to flash over. The video then pans to a modern home with modern furniture. This room is engulfed in flames within three minutes.

“I want the kids to be scared of it, I do,” Seczech said. “I want them to be scared of fire and smoke, but I want them to be prepared. So what I do is show them videos. They kind of think it’s scary. I show them what to do if they have a fire. You can’t play games like that.”

The fear he’s talking about is a healthy fear. He’s coupling his videos with information about how to best be prepared for a fire. One of the easiest ways to be proactive in this situation is to close the bedroom door before bed.

“Keeping it closed greatly improves chance of survival and saving homes and valuables,” Seczech said. “Cheap six-panel hollow core doors will hold fire and heat back for some time. It will stoke smoke from coming in, heat and fire for quite a bit of time.”

From there he instructs the children to feel the door with the back of their hand. If it’s hot, they’re instructed to keep the door closed and place a towel or blanket underneath the door to stop smoke from coming in. If the door isn’t hot, they can peek into the hallway; if there’s smoke from the waist up they can crawl beneath the smoke to get out. If there’s smoke from ceiling to floor close the door and place a towel or blanket underneath. From there they should wait by the window and be in plain sight when a firefighter arrives.

“That’s the big thing we hit on every year. It’s proven to save lives,” he concluded.

Outside of fire prevention week, Seczech, Dolgos and the rest of the fire department are out preaching topical fire safety bits such as firework safety around the Fourth of July, barbecue safety in the summertime, chimney fire safety in the fall and winter, Christmas tree fire safety during the holidays and mulch fire in the spring, to name a few.

For more information on fire prevention, contact the fire department at (856) 863-4005 or visit its Facebook page “Washington Township Fire Department.”

Anthony is a graduate of Rowan University and a proud freelance contributor for 08108 magazine. He has past bylines in The Sun Newspapers and the Burlington County Times.

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