National Night Out stresses safety

August 03, 1999

National Night OutBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Hagerstown's Ridge Avenue neighborhood celebrated the 16th annual National Night Out Tuesday, blending fun and safety with awareness.

Residents gathered in the community park to play games and talk with police about accident prevention. Children and their parents explored a fire engine and the "SafetyHouse," a simulated home filled with potential hazards.

Owned by the Washington County Fire and Rescue Association, the trailer contains a model kitchen, living room and bedroom. As groups passed through, volunteer firefighters pointed out props representing risky situations.

For example, visitors could spot pans on the stove with handles sticking out, SafetyHouse Coordinator Douglas DeHaven said. They might find prescription drugs lying out or knives close to the ground.


As visitors reached the bedroom, smoke warned them of a fire hazard. They were asked to try the door, which was heated to simulate a real fire. They use a window exit and descend a ladder.

"Now you know why Mommy says stay away from the kitchen when I cook," Sonya Shirley told her 5-year-old daughter. She said the SafetyHouse helps educate parents and kids about household dangers.

"It's a really good thing to have this for the kids," she said.

Outside the trailer, Hagerstown Fire Department Public Educator Mike Weller talked to those waiting in line about smoke detectors. He stressed the importance of replacing detectors every 10 years, saying old ones are a problem.

"Don't be bashful. Call us, we'd love to come out and install one for free," he said.

Across the park kids clambered on a fire truck and tried on helmets and other gear. Firefighter James Sprecher III showed where to find the engine's equipment. "That's what pumps the water," he said to one boy, opening a side door to show the machinery inside.

Officer Dwayne Freeman of the Hagerstown City Police spoke to children about safety rules such as telling parents before leaving the house. "It sounds like obvious things to do, but with little kids, somebody's got to explain it," he said.

Lt. Margaret Kline spoke on bicycle safety, emphasizing the use of helmets and lights as well as rules of the road. "It's a good turnout for their first year," she said, looking around at the crowd of about 30.

Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, National Night Out is primarily a crime prevention and anti-drug effort. Last year's campaign involved 31.1 million people in 9,420 communities, according to the organization's Web site.

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