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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Forward - Spring Into Action - Change Your Smoke Alarm Battery

Twice a year, in the days leading up to time adjustment for Daylight Savings Time, members of the fire service remind everyone to complete an even more important task in addition to adjusting their clocks.  When you change your clock - change the battery in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well.

Prince George's County Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor stated, “It is important for everyone to understand, that the best staffed, best equipped, and best funded Fire Department may not be able to save you in time, on their own. We must accept the personal responsibility to help ourselves, to make ourselves safety conscience and improve our home preparedness and safety.  Your first step is to install and maintain working smoke alarms.”
According to the United States Fire Administration,  every year, approximately 2,600 Americans die in home fires.  Over half of these deaths (52%) occur between the hours of 10:00pm and 7:00am, when residents are typically sleeping. Smoke and toxic gases from a home fire are as deadly as heat and flames.  Just two or three breaths of toxic smoke can render you unconscious.  The majority of fire victims die or are injured from exposure to smoke and toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, not actual burns.  In addition, smoke obscures vision, decreasing your ability to escape.
Smoke alarms save lives, prevent injuries, and minimize property damage by detecting fires early and alerting residents, allowing crucial time for you and your family to escape.  The risk of dying from a fire in a home without working smoke alarms is twice as high as in a home that has working smoke alarms.

Please remember when you move your clocks forward this upcoming weekend to reflect the start of Daylight Savings Time; change the batteries in your alarms as well.

Residents are reminded to:

  • Change the batteries in their smoke and CO alarms at least once-a-year.
  • Test your alarms monthly by pressing the test button on the face of the alarm cover.
  • Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home.
  • Once your smoke alarm has protected you for 10 or more years - it is time to retire it and obtain a new one.
  • Plan and practice a home escape in the event of an emergency-designate a safe meeting place outside.

Prince George's County citizens and residents are eligible to have a working smoke alarm installed in their home; free of charge.  Call our Safety First Smoke Alarm line at 301-864-SAFE (7233) and make your appointment.

Bowie High School Student Charged with Arson

A Bowie High School student has been arrested and charged for a setting a fire inside the school.  On Monday, March 7, 2011, firefighters dealt with a fire in a second floor bathroom at Bowie High School on Annapolis Road.  Students were evacuated as crews ensured the fire was out, checked for possible extension and ventilated the smoke that had filled the hallway.

Fire Investigators were called to the scene and determined the fire was a case of arson.  Working with school security officials; fire investigators quickly identified a suspect and arrested him.

According to fire investigators the respondent was charged with the following:

Arson 1st Degree, a Felony, which carries a maximum penalty of $50,000.00/30 Years in jail, if convicted; Arson 2nd Degree, a Felony ($30,000.00/20 Yrs) and Reckless Endangerment,a Misdemeanor, ($5000.00/5Yrs).

The 15 year-old-male was processed and was to be released to the custody of his parents yesterday.

The fire caused an estimated $500 in loss.

The crime of arson is taken very seriously and our Office of the Fire Marshal will investigate each occurrence and arrest whoever is responsible.

The identity of the individual is not being released because he is minor.

Fire/EMS Training Academy Starts New Class of Recruits

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department recently started a class of recruit Fire Fighter/Medics.  On Monday, February 28, 2011, twenty-seven personnel attended their first day of training at the Fire/EMS Training Academy as members of Career Recruit School #42.  Twenty-four of the recruits are new hires; 3 are EMS-ready only and will receive basic firefighter training.  Thirteen of the recruits are currently experienced as either firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMT) or paramedics who possess appropriate Maryland training certifications.  This latter group will attend an abbreviated academy of ten weeks, after which they will be detailed to Fire/EMS stations.  The remaining recruits will attend a full training academy allotment of twenty-four weeks.    

Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, along with the command staff, attended the recruit’s first day at the Fire/EMS Academy and offered words of encouragement.  He stated, “One of the greatest secrets to living a rewarding life is to find the one thing you really love to do; then go and do it.  For most of you here, it is clear that the answer to that question is fire suppression and emergency medicine.”  

Each member of CRS #42 was afforded an opportunity to introduce himself or herself to Acting Fire Chief Bashoor, the command staff, instructors, and their fellow recruits.  Their self-introduction was as diverse as the group itself.  Whether soft-spoken or thunderous, each recruit spoke eagerly—though some a bit more nervous than others.  
“My expectations for this class are high as they have already achieved so much, having passed a nationally recognized Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT).  I believe twenty out of twenty-four of them are college graduates.  Many things that we had to with previous recruit schools, e.g. progressive physical training steps to bring them up to an acceptable standard, wasn’t necessary.  They were in shape and even surpassed the preset standards.  Academically, this group has the advantage of advanced degrees, which will aid them in their studies during class.  Having employees beginning at this level will permit more time to focus on skills and their conditioning should allow the staff greater opportunity for more repetitions with shorter recovery times,” says Major H. "Butch" Leonhard, Commander of the Department's Fire/EMS Training Academy.

Major Leonhard further stated, “The group almost immediately began to gel and become one entity.  They’ve started forming bonds that will last throughout their careers.  Twenty years from now, these individuals will look back on these days with a fondness only those who’ve toiled together can appreciate.  It’s exciting that the class is underway and the Fire/EMS Academy staff looks forward to many more successful Career Recruit Schools.” 

The CRS #43 is scheduled to begin later this month and will have 35 recruits. 

Thanks from the NFFF - Producing the Seat Belt PSA

The Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department recently received a note of thanks from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF).  Ronald Jon Siarnicki, Executive Director of the NFFF, thanked the Department for providing personnel and apparatus that were used in a new seat belt public service announcement.  Ron Siarnicki wrote, "I want to thank you for helping the NFFF with our effort to create a new seat belt PSA.  I had the opportunity to release the clip at Firehouse World in San Diego on Monday.  Already we are well over 8000 internet views in just a day and a half.  Your crews did an excellent job and as was expected your staff went out of their way to make it all happen.  Thanks for your help, support and friendship."  

Personnel from the Alexandria Fire Department also participated in the PSA which was produced by Dave Statter.  

Shooting the video proved to be a challenge for Dave and his production crew.  A 4-alarm fire occurred on the day he was scheduled to shoot in Alexandria and the date he selected for Prince George's County was February 19, 2011, the day of the wind driven fires.  Statter and crew adapted and overcame the challenges and produced an effective PSA with important message for all emergency personnel. 

Thanks to College Park, Branchville and others for helping out and participating in this worthwhile effort.