UNION — An annual tradition to help remind the people of Union County to practice fire prevention safety continued Saturday.
Last week (Oct. 7-13) was Fire Prevention Week, and local firefighters visited schools and various local groups to discuss fire safety. The week culminated with a parade on Main Street Saturday morning which was followed by a special celebration in front of Walmart hosted by the Firefighters Association of Union County.
Jimmy Wilkins, Firefighters Association president and Jonesville fire chief. said that all 12 fire departments in the county were represented, as well as City of Union Public Safety Department, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Command Post, Union County EMS, Rescue Squad and Regional One.
“We have the parade every year, and this is the second year we’ve had this event in front of Walmart,” Wilkins said, explaining that the post-parade celebration had been held at the Bonham Fire Department in years past but was moved to attract more public participation.
At the beginning of the event in front of Walmart, the Regional One Air Medical Service helicopter landed, and those in attendance explored the helicopter, taking pictures and asking the pilot questions.
Children in attendance received plastic firefighter helmets and were allowed to explore the fire trucks while adults were often reminded to change the batteries in their smoke detectors and to have a plan in case of fire.
The event also included food and a cornhole tournament in which firefighters from various departments formed two-person teams to compete against each other. The winning team received a trophy and the corn hole boards made especially for Saturday’s competition were raffled off.
According to Gov. Nikki Haley’s proclamation of Fire Prevention Week, fires claimed the lives of 57 people in South Carolina in 2011, with 89 percent dying in homes — where people are at the greatest risk from fire. The proclamation also states that heating, electrical equipment and cooking are among the leading causes of fire deaths.
Haley also stated, “Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in reported home fires by half, and residents who have planned and practiced a home fire escape plan are better prepared and more likely to survive a fire.”
The 2012 Fire Prevention Week theme, “Have Two Ways Out!” serves to remind everyone to develop and practice a home fire escape plan during Fire Prevention Week and throughout the year. The South Carolina Fire Marshal’s Office offered the following advice for planning and practicing a fire escape route:
When a home fire occurs, time is not on your side. Every second counts.
In less than three minutes, your home could be completely engulfed in flames, so you and your family will have to react quickly. That is why having a fire escape plan is so important.
The following information will assist you in creating a fire escape plan:
• Draw a floor plan of your home. Identify at least two ways out of each room, especially bedrooms, and talk about the exits with each family member. Make sure all windows and doors leading outside open easily.
• Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Ensure everyone knows what to do and where to go should a smoke alarm sound. Since most fatal fires occur during the late night hours, it’s a good idea to have a fire drill at night.
• Young children and older adults may need help in getting out. Make sure you have at least two ways to reach them to aid in their escape.
• Choose a meeting place outside the home to conduct a head count.
In the event of a fire, get out as quickly as possible and go to the designated meeting place.
• If there is smoke, crawl low to the floor until outside.
• Never go back inside for people or pets.
• Call the fire department from outside the home.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.