Trailer puts fire safety on wheels It simulates conditions of blaze to teach people how to react

August 27, 1996|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The county volunteer firefighters' new home really smokes.

The $36,500 fire safety trailer is a portable classroom with vents to push nontoxic smoke into rooms and doors that heat up -- both features that help teach children and adults about fire safety.

Fire Department officials said they hope it will help save more lives.

"The trailer is like the pinnacle of resources to supplement our fire safety education program," said J. Gary Sheckells, Fire Department spokesman. "This was a dream just a year or so ago to have a teaching tool like this."

John Spiker, chief of the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company and chairman of the volunteer association's fire safety house committee, has been pushing to get the 32-foot-long, 8-foot-wide trailer for seven years.

"It's important to get the education out to the younger children at an early age so that they know what to do in a fire or an emergency," Spiker said. "I'd rather teach them early than have to go to a fire and sift through the rubble trying to find their bodies because they didn't know what to do."

The trailer was purchased with donations from the county government and local business and civic groups, making Anne Arundel the fifth jurisdiction in Maryland to have one.

The two-story, mobile classroom is equipped with a working kitchen, living room with fireplace, a telephone and a bedroom.

On the first floor, firefighters can demonstrate the hazards of pot handles that stick out from a stove and uncovered fireplaces. bTC Upstairs, children can experience what its like to be in a house fire.

Outside, instructors can activate a blower that pushes nontoxic smoke through vents into the trailer, set off a fire alarm, and monitor the children by using the cameras inside and answering the 911 calls.

Youngsters are taught how to check a bedroom door -- which heats up -- to determine by feel whether there is a fire on the other side, then to escape through a bedroom window with a ladder hanging beneath it. Adults can watch fire-prevention videos on a television attached to the outside of the trailer.

"The greatest benefit is that it is an interactive display," Sheckells said. "Not only can residents view a video on how fires are started and fire safety education, but they can also go through the process of finding out what it's like to be in bed and have a fire in your home."

The trailer's mobility adds to its effectiveness, Sheckells said.

"This can readily be taken to the school and used in many community-based programs where children of all ages can learn about fire safety," Sheckells said.

Workers at a Glen Burnie paint shop are putting the final touches on it this week. The fire safety trailer will be on display at the volunteer firefighters association's Fire Prevention Pageant at Earleigh Heights Fire Company at 6: 30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free.

It also will be displayed Sept. 5-7 at the volunteer group's convention in Deale; at the county fair Sept. 11-13 in Crownsville; and at the Annapolis City Fire Department Fire Expo at the City Dock at 10 a.m. Sept 14.

Spiker said firefighters will begin taking the trailer to community groups in late September.

Pub Date: 8/27/96

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