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Fire Prevention Week puts focus on residential safety
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Gainesville and Hall County firefighters will remind students how to “stop, drop and roll” during the next few days for National Fire Prevention Week.

Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and escape routes are essential for preventing and surviving fires, said Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle.

“If families inspect their homes, have residential sprinkler systems, working smoke alarms and escape plans, there would be no fire fatalities,” he said. “There has never been a recorded fire fatality in a home with a residential sprinkler system.”

During October, Fire Prevention Month, Cagle encourages residents to walk through their homes and look for fire hazards by testing smoke alarm batteries on every level of the home. A working smoke alarm doubles the chance of surviving a house fire, he said.

The next step is creating a fire escape plan for the entire family.

“Children should be as confident in escaping their own home as they are their school,” Cagle said. “It’s the law for children to have fire drills at school, but in the place they spend the most time — their homes — it’s not a law but just as important.”

Both departments will visit schools and teach students how to create escape plans with their families.

“We’ll give them a blank evacuation plan to take home, get their parents to help them fill it out and bring it back to their teachers,” Gainesville Fire Marshal Jerome Yarbrough said. “It educates kids and parents on the need to evacuate in case of an emergency, and it’s our interactive activity with kids. They can design it to where they live so they know the quickest way to leave and where the safe area is once they get out.”

Yarbrough is also looking forward to wrapping up Fire Prevention Week at Mule Camp Market on the downtown Gainesville square this weekend. Officers will hand out free safety items and information.

“We get to see a lot of community members who don’t normally visit the fire station and are in a work environment,” he said. “With kids, we go through the drill and they have fun. We don’t get to see adults until they have an incident or tragedy.”
Groups who want to tour Gainesville Fire Department stations can also call Yarbrough to set up an appointment this week.

“It’s important to get the fire safety message out because fires right now are down. They used to come mainly from smoking and drinking attributed to lack to safety, but now it’s cooking with pre-teens,” he said. “They should have an adult nearby if cooking, and they need to be attentive. Don’t leave your food unattended and get distracted.”

As colder weather approaches, residents should also check their heating systems to avoid any electrical issues.

“Although fire safety is emphasized during fire prevention week, you need to be fire-safe all year,” Cagle said. “Fires are somewhat of a problem in Hall County, and residents need to do a better job of taking personal responsibility for actions in their homes. Causes of fires are often called accidental but most of the time they are really negligence.”