Although I’ve been working with Kidde for four years to promote fire and carbon monoxide safety, I’ve never had the opportunity to reach out to my local fire safety community until recently.
Earlier this month, I visited with my local volunteer fire department, Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department, to chat with firefighters about ways that we can help them do their jobs. The plan was to make a brief video to share with all of you as well as my social media audience, but I was so moved by our conversation that I immediately knew I had to do more.
Perhaps the most powerful moment was when one firefighter stated he’d rather walk into a burning building than get called to an accident on our largest local highway. That’s right, folks. What’s scarier than a burning building? Us behind the wheel of a car, speeding past an accident site.
So what can we do to help keep our local firefighters safe and to help them help us more effectively? It turns out that there’s quite a lot we can do, actually.
Check out this brief video with firefighter Elizabeth of SSVFD for starters!
Next, take a look at these tips that follow the journey that firefighters take from the station to your home. Every step of the way there are improvements that we can make to help them do their job safely and effectively.
On the Roads:
Don’t drive distracted. This point can’t be emphasized enough, the firefighters said. Driving distracted – even by having a conversation on a hands free device – causes accidents, makes it more difficult for emergency vehicles to get to the scene, and makes accident sites more dangerous.
Slow down. Speaking of accident sites, please SLOW DOWN when driving near an emergency situation.
Move over. When you see an emergency vehicle behind you, move to the nearest curb. Also, when you are driving past an emergency vehicle at an accident scene, give that area as much space as possible. Ideally, you should leave one lane between your car and the scene.
Do not move in front of a service vehicle. I was shocked to learn that some people, in a quest to move to what they believe is the right location, actually pull in front of fire trucks, blocking what used to be a clear path for the firefighters.
Don’t pull into the accident lane. Just because you have driven past the fire truck at an accident scene does not mean that you have safely cleared the area. The trucks and other vehicles may be blocking your view of emergency personnel or accident victims. Drive a safe distance past the accident before moving back over into that lane.
In Your Neighborhoods:
Don’t park in such a way that vehicles cannot get through your street. When parking in your neighborhood, don’t just be mindful of other cars. Also keep in mind that the road needs to be open enough to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
Don’t park on the apex of a curb. Vehicles parked near and on turns and intersections make it very difficult for fire trucks and other large emergency equipment to turn onto neighborhood streets.
Don’t block fire hydrants. Park far enough away from fire hydrants to give emergency personnel clear and easy access.
In Your Home:
Make sure that your exterior house number is clearly marked. Use large numbers, number in multiple locations, and use contrasting colors. Firefighters shared with me that they sometimes drive right past a location because there is no clear marking to show house numbers. Keep in mind that many streets are numbered differently and your house number isn’t necessarily obvious.
Clear the path to your door. Overgrown bushes and poorly lit paths make it difficult for personnel to reach your door quickly and with the equipment they need.
Clear your doorway. Many homeowners use a back door, side door, or garage entrance on a daily basis rather than a front door, but firefighters will enter the first and most obvious door they see. Be sure that all entrances are clear and accessible.
Remove clutter. While most people’s homes don’t qualify for an episode of Hoarders, the fact is that many people have areas of their home with an amount of clutter that would impede quick and clear rescue in the event of an emergency.
Prevent fires. The most obvious and simplest way to help keep our local firefighters safe is to observe fire safety precautions in the first place, thus preventing us from needing their services. Keeping your family safe also keeps our firefighters safe!
Speaking of fire prevention, here are three simple ways you can be more observant of fire safety precautions as we head into the fall and winter seasons!
Fireplace safety: As the weather gets colder, practice safety when using your fireplace and/or space heaters.
Candle safety: If you decorate for the holidays with candles, make sure they are away from combustible material and that you have a fire extinguisher handy. Get more tips.
Kitchen safety: Prepping for fall festivals and holidays often means additional time in the kitchen. Stay alert when cooking and baking to prevent fires, and have a fire extinguisher nearby.