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Randolph firefighters, base community observe Fire Prevention Week

By David DeKunder | Wingspread staff writer | Oct. 5, 2007

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Saving lives will be the focus of Team Randolph fire personnel when the base observes Fire Prevention Week, Sunday through Oct. 13. 

Randolph firefighters hope to educate base members on fire safety and how they can better their chances of surviving a fire through fire prevention and safety exhibits displayed at the BXtra. The fire department will also conduct tours for children and base groups. 

Randolph Fire and Emergency Services fire inspector James Smith Jr. said he will follow this year's Fire Prevention Week message, "Practice Your Escape Plan," in urging base members and families to come up with a fire escape plan for their homes. 

"Our main priority as a fire department is to reach out to the public to prevent fires from happening on base," Mr. Smith said. "People die in house fires because they do not know what to do and they don't have a fire escape plan. We hope that Fire Prevention Week will prompt folks to plan and practice their escape." 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, which sponsors Fire Prevention Week, 3,030 people in the U.S. died in house fires in 2005, which was an average of eight people per day. 

According to the NFPA, having a plan and knowing what to do can better the odds of surviving a house fire, but only 23 percent of households have a fire escape plan and have practiced it. 

"Many times when we speak to residents who have experienced a fire in their home, they recall becoming confused and disoriented by the conditions and severity of the situation, but they realized they needed to get out fast," Mr. Smith said. "Sometimes there are only seconds to escape, but there's no question that having a plan in place that has been practiced saves precious time and makes survival more likely." 

Randolph Fire Chief Mark Ledford said the department's fire prevention program has had a major impact on improving fire safety on base. 

"Over the last five years we have had $0 in fire losses," Mr. Ledford said. "I chalk that up to our outstanding fire prevention program and a motivated team of inspectors. We have been able to work with unit safety representatives and facility managers, which has been critical in accomplishing what we want to do." 

Base firefighters will be promoting Fire Prevention Week by visiting with children at Randolph Elementary School, Randolph Youth Center and the Child Development Center. Mr. Smith said displays and exhibits on fire safety procedures such as home exit and stop, drop and roll drills will be set up for children to see. 

It is important that children know about fire safety because, if left unattended, they can possibly start a house fire. In 2002, children who played with fire were the cause of an estimated 13,900 structures being destroyed, which resulted in 210 deaths, 1,250 injuries and $339 million in property damage. 

The NFPA says that most of the people who died in those fires were children under the age of five and that roughly two out of three children who started the fires did so with matches or lighters. Children playing with matches or lighters were the cause of three out of four fire deaths. 

For more information on fire safety, contact the Randolph Fire Emergency Fire Prevention Office at 652-6915 or log on to the NFPA Web site at www.nfpa.org.