ELIZABETHTOWN — With the recent, long-awaited arrival of the Elizabethtown Fire Department’s new custom-built engine, the focus of the department will now be shifting from the “pound of cure” to the “ounce of prevention,” in the form of a community risk reduction program.
“You’ve heard the saying ‘if it’s predictable, it’s preventable’,” said Fire Chief Nick West. “We can predict the potential for fires, so now we’re looking at ways to prevent them.”
The community risk reduction program is comprised of three components:
— Fire prevention
In the past, the department has set aside the month of October for the purpose of educating residents about prevention.
“What we do in October, we want to do year round,” said West.
Department staff will be installing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, visiting schools, and educating the general public about how, for instance, to properly use a fire extinguisher or creating an awareness of how fires are started. In addition, West would like to eventually utilize the web site so that the community can find video resources about topics like cooking safety and the making sure 911 house numbers are easily seen.
— Fire inspections
“My goal is to have state-certified investigators,” West said. “When we do have a fire, I want to be able to do as much inspection work in house as we can.”
Licensed inspectors will collect evidence, evaluate fire patterns, and make determinations about cause and whether the fire was intentional or unintentional.
While that may sound more reactionary than proactive, it is the data collection in which the department is interested. Records would allow the department to do hot spot mapping, which would show them, for instance, a particular area that is prone to cooking fires, which would in turn let them know that they need to proactively increase education about the topic in that particular area.
— Code enforcement
”Most people think we’re trying to find something wrong when we do inspections,” said West, “but we’re actually trying to educate people to prevent something from happening.”
West said yearly inspections are the goal, and the department will be making a point to conduct follow-up visits that ensure any problem areas are being corrected.
The department will also be visiting commercial property to gather data for pre-incident plans. Data includes information such as contact names, construction type, layout of the building, the presence of combustible materials, and the location of electricity, all of which will be available digitally while en route to a fire, so that personnel know before they arrive on site what problems they may encounter.
All of the steps mentioned above, like the new fire truck, are part of a long-term goal to raise the department’s insurance rating, thereby lowering insurance rates and saving residents money. For each step — like following up on code violations, for instance — the department receives additional insurance points. West wanted to be sure that residents understand that, while such measures as code enforcement may seem inconvenient for some, on the whole, they are for the betterment of the community.
“We want the public to know we’re not out there to cause heartache,” said West.
In a related matter, West reported the department was recently named one of five departments statewide to receive a $1,000 grant through the Burned Children’s Fund. With the money, the department will be purchasing, with the help of Dan’s Golf Carts, a caged trailer in which to collect aluminum cans. The trailer, similar to the one at Dublin Fire Department, will sit outside Station 55, and residents may bring cans and pour them into the trailer, and the money raised through recycling will benefit the Burned Children’s Fund.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.