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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MEDIA ADVISORY - 37th Annual Public Safety Valor Awards

Media Contact: Dana Brook, Fire Captain, 240-691-2175, DNBrooks@co.pg.md.us

The 37th Annual Public Safety Valor Award Luncheon is fast approaching.  This event honors the men and women of Prince George's County Public Safety Agencies for their heroic acts performed during 2013.  The event is always well attended by family members and co-workers of our recipients.  Members of the media are encouraged to attend and cover the stories of our Valor and Excellence in EMS recipients.

WHAT:     Public Safety Valor Awards

WHEN:     Wednesday, April 23, 2014
                  Doors Open at 11:30 am, lunch at 12:00 noon (reserved seating), awards program at 12:45 pm

WHERE:   Martins Crosswinds, 7400 Greenway Center, Drive, Greenbelt, Maryland 20770

WHO:        County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III, Elected and Community leaders, DCAO for Public
                  Safety Barry Stanton, Public Safety Agency Heads, Valor Recipients with family and 

Smoke Alarms Continue to Sound a Warning in County Homes

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     Twitter: @PGFDPIO

For the 11th time over the past 3 months a family in Prince George’s County was alerted to a fire in their home by a working smoke alarm.  Not just any smoke alarm, it was a working smoke alarm installed by a firefighter just last year.

At about 7:45 pm, Tuesday, April 15, an electrical event occurred which started a fire inside the wall of a
1-story, 1300 sq. ft. single family home in the 2500 block of Booker T. Drive in Upper Marlboro.  The fire continued to burn and remained hidden behind the interior wall.  Smoke and flames extended up the walls in between the studs until it hit the attic where the fire grew rapidly.  Smoke and heat started to bank down from the attic into the living space below.  The occupants remained unaware of the fire.
Smoke pours from roof of home on Booker T. Drive in Upper Marlboro.
Photo courtesy of Kentland VFD Facebook.

Within moments of smoke making it’s way into the living portion of the house two smoke alarms emitted a warning of fire.  The occupants heeded the alarms warning and escaped safely.

Firefighters arrived quickly to find smoke coming from the house.  A through search of the house confirmed no one was inside.  Firefighters spent about 15-20 minutes extinguishing the fire.  The fire was declared “accidental” and attributed to an electrical malfunction.  Fire loss is estimated at  $30,000.

No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported.  Four adult occupants will be displaced and are being assisted by the American Red Cross with temporary living arrangements.  The family told personnel on scene that firefighters had installed the smoke alarms in their home last year.

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department has an extensive array of programs designed to improve the number of working smoke alarms in homes.   Long-standing and successful smoke alarm programs including Post Incident Neighbor Intervention Program (PINIP) and Pro-Active Residential Information Distribution Effort (PRIDE) are now joined by the Departments Safety First Day of the Month and Neighbor Helping Neighbor programs.  Our efforts will continue to be ensuring homes and families are protected by working smoke alarms.  The Departments focus is the promotion and use of 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature smoke alarms that are sure to reduce the number of fire fatalities across the Country.

This home marks the 11th time a smoke alarm has sounded alerting occupants of the home of a fire.  Having a working smoke alarm in your home increases your chances of survival by about 50%.  Home occupants also should develop a home escape plan, identifying two ways way out of every room in your house and designate a safe meeting place outside.  Practice the plan often but at a minimum of twice a year.

Firefighters go door-to-door asking to check smoke alarms.  If one is found to be 10 years or older, not working or absent, firefighters will install a new smoke alarm at no charge to the homeowner.  The Department also accepts requests from citizens for new smoke alarm installation by calling 311 or 301-864-SAFE (7233).  Citizens may also request on-line by clicking here.

The free smoke alarm programs offered by our Department are made possible by the generosity of PEPCO, IAFF PGFD Local 1619, 1-800-BOARDUP and most recently the Ladies Auxiliary of the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.  Despite the generous donation of smoke alarms the Department has challenges in meeting the current demand and our supply of smoke alarms is extremely low.  Any corporation, company, individual or group that is interested in donating smoke alarms so we can continue to save lives like Tuesday in Upper Marlboro is asked to contact the Office of the Fire Chief at 301-883-5200.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Turning Misfortune Into a Fire Safety/Injury Prevention Message - Celebrities Included

BY: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930, mebrady@co.pg.md.us
Twitter @PGFDPIO

The fire service utilizes many training methods and visual demonstrations during community outreach events while providing public education for fire prevention and injury safety.  At times we use the negative event as a teachable moment that helps to drive the fire service message home, literally, home.

One of our most often used instructional methods is to demonstrate how "not" to do something in the hopes of using a negative and turn it into a positive teaching moment. A moment "burned" into the memory of the public to help them avoid avoid that particular tragedy from ever occurring to them.  A popular landmark burns to the ground, a family is displaced after a home fire or perhaps a fire involving a fatality are all opportunities for teachable moments for Life Safety Educators and Public Information Officers (PIO).

When tragedy strikes a community it provides firefighters an opportunity to help educate.  Consider a  door-to-door campaign within that community including checking smoke alarms, performing safety checks, distributing literature and interactions with citizens are all acts that are appreciated and safety message remembered.  A visit to schools within a grief stricken community to talk about fire safety, smoke alarms and developing a exit drill in the home with 2 ways out of every room in your house is better received by the students who in turn will bring the fire safety message home and discuss with parents and siblings.  Of course, all of these community outreach events are an excellent opportunity for the Departments PIO to invite media to join firefighters on these visits and increase the exposure of the fire safety message.

During planned community outreach and life safety events that don't involve a recent tragedy it's safer to demonstrate the "negatives" by capturing the event on video or using existing video.  A video makes the teachable moment available to play over again and again.  A video can be used by the PIO to post on the Departments website and social media sites expanding the number of people that may be positively impacted with your public safety message.

One of most commonly used live demonstrations and videos is the comparison demonstration between a well-maintained Christmas tree and one that is not properly maintained.  A fire starts out small and within seconds the dried out tree "explodes" with fire.  Watch this powerful public awareness video here.

When tragedy and misfortune strikes a celebrity it provides another opportunity to expand the potential reach up to millions of people with a fire safety message.  Remember, we are turning a negative into a positive.  This is a great moment for a PIO to send a fire safety and injury prevention message especially when no one is seriously injured (must remain respectful) and when the celebrity makes a public disclosure of their own "incident."  Celebrities, by their very nature of being well-known and admired by millions of people, help the fire service with public education messages by them sharing an unfortunate experience.  A vast audience of fans across the world will listen to their story of misfortunes and tragedy and the fire service has the ability to capture the moment with a beneficial message.  It's would be a shame and a missed opportunity if PIO's and Life Safety Educators did not take full advantage of a celebrity misfortune and public disclosure to send a message of fire safety and injury prevention.

For example, Sharon Osbourne shared her story of a candle fire at their Beverly Hills Home.  Carrie Underwood showed it's OK to have a working smoke alarm after she set hers off accidentally.   Remember William Shatners misfortune with a turkey fryer?  He shared his story by producing videos demonstrating what went wrong and spoke of the dangers of a deep fryer.

Country star Trace Adkins Tennessee home was significantly damaged by fire.  His kids got out and
met outside just like they had practiced after Brentwood Tennessee Firefighters had taught them during a school visit.  Trace and his wife both publicly thanked firefighters for their education efforts and for their work in extinguishing the fire at their home.  If the fire service did not take this occurrence and turn it into a positive story about public education and escape planning than it was a missed opportunity.

The most recent video that demonstrates what is an increasing number of home fires caused by candles comes in the form of a music video by Blake Shelton.  Blake's most recent hit song, "Doin' What She Likes," contains the lyrics of;

"Lightin' watermelon candles upstairs, Lettin' them burn and holdin' her all night,
 I like doin' what she likes."

Letting candles burn all night???  Shocking words for any firefighter as we all know that candles should never be left unattended and extinguished if you leave the room and before you go to bed.  I was alarmed by the lyrics until I saw the music video for "Doin' What She Likes."  This music video should be used by firefighters, Life Safety Educators and PIO's to help in our campaign to prevent fires caused by unattended candles.  Well done Mr. Shelton, well done.  You have provided fire services across the country another teachable moment through your video.  Please watch and listen;

By the Numbers from the United States Fire Administration: 

Candle Fires

estimated number of home candle fires each year
estimated number of home candle fire deaths each year
estimated number of home candle fire injuries each year
of home candle fires start because the candle is too close to combustible materials
of candle fires begin when candles are unattended or abandoned
of home candle fires begin in the bedroom, more than in any other room
of candle fire deaths occur between Midnight and 6 am
Celebrities and professional athletes have a tremendous opportunity to save lives by their mere mention or tweet of a safety message.  For example, "Smoke Alarms Save Lives - test yours today to ensure it is working."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Family Nights at PGFD Training Academy

A compilation of images captured during recent "family nights" for our High School Cadets and our current Career Recruit School 49.  Family nights are typically held as the groups near their graduation from studies at the Fire/EMS Training Academy in Cheltenham.  Cadets and Recruits invite their families to the Academy so they can demonstrate their Fire and EMS skills they have learned.

These images were captured by Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor and Assistant Fire Chief Paul A. Gomez.

High School Cadets

Career Recruit School #49