New program teaches fire safety tips

July 20, 1998

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer


Fire SafetyBy LISA GRAYBEAL / Staff Writer

At the flip of a switch, a tiny bedroom in the back of a trailer fills with smoke, blocking vision almost instantly.

Seconds later, the smoke detector is activated, giving off a series of shrill beeps.

Rolling off the bed and staying low to the floor, a reach for the closed bedroom door finds it hot to the touch, indicating fire on the other side. The only option for escape is through the back window and down a ladder.

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The realistic situation was part of a demonstration Sunday in the Washington County Fire & Rescue Association's new Safety House, a 35-foot-long mobile trailer equipped to teach the public about safety and injury prevention.


"It's endless what it can be used for," said Doug DeHaven, deputy fire chief of The Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, who chaired a committee to look into purchasing the trailer.

The $40,000, handicapped-accessible Safety House, which will be paid for and maintained with proceeds from the association's annual country-western show, will eventually travel to different fire and emergency medical service events all over the county, where trained fire and rescue volunteers will give tours and provide demonstrations, DeHaven said.

Schools, nursing homes, businesses and other groups also will be able to request the use of the Safety House for on-site programs, he said.

"It's a misconception that this is just for kids. It's not limited to that," DeHaven said.

But by starting to teach safety to the young through programs like the new Safety House and the Children's Village facility on Mt. Aetna Road, fire and rescue officials hope the concepts are remembered into adulthood, said Jay Grimes, president of the fire and rescue association.

The idea behind the mobile Safety House is to bring programs to the communities and to reach more people, DeHaven said.

It's also a way of drawing in interested adults for recruitment to their local fire and rescue companies, Grimes said.

The trailer's mini-kitchen, equipped with a tiny stove and oven, refrigerator, sink and microwave, is designed to teach the public about cooking safety.

A small living room with a telephone, fireplace and stairs leading to the back bedroom can be used for a number of safety programs, DeHaven said.

Each room can be filled with nontoxic, water-based smoke to teach people what to do in a house fire.

The bedroom door, which contains a programmable built-in heating element, actually heats up to simulate what it would be like in the event of a fire.

Cameras mounted in the rooms project the inside scene to a built-in television screen that can be viewed by people from outside the trailer. For example, parents can watch the reactions of their children during a demonstration as it's happening.

The Safety House also will be used as a place to teach bike safety, child-seat programs, and swimming safety procedures, among others, DeHaven said.

"People are being hurt from a lot more than just fires," he said.

The Safety House was manufactured in Mt. Pleasant, Pa., by Mobile Concepts by Scotty.

Worldwide there are more than 400 mobile safety houses like the one Washington County purchased, including several in Maryland, said Henri Degre, who co-owns the company with his wife, Anne.

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