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City pursues safety designation

April 11, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- Local firefighters give away smoke alarms to homeowners, help the elderly with home safety makeovers and teach children about fire dangers at Children's Village of Washington County.

Now Hagerstown is vying for a national safety designation that officials hope will allow it to do more of the same.

The City of Hagerstown is pursuing a Safe Community designation, to which only seven communities in the United States can lay claim, said Michael Weller, public education officer for the Hagerstown Fire Department.

Pursuing a Safe Community designation through a National Safety Council program is a difficult process, one that involves a team of evaluators coming to the city to judge public safety programs, Weller said.

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Being designated as a Safe Community is considered to be prestigious and if the city receives the designation, it likely would increase its ability to receive more national grants to increase public safety programs, Weller said.

Weller said the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene felt the city might be able to obtain the Safe Community designation based on public safety programs such as SAFE and Children's Village of Washington County.

Through SAFE -- an acronym for Smoke Alarms for Everybody -- city firefighters distribute smoke alarms to residents who need them. Children's Village, on Mount Aetna Road, is a centralized facility at which second-grade students learn fire, traffic, water and pedestrian safety skills.

Weller recently designed a program to help local residents make sure they have adequate personal safety equipment in their homes.

Through the Home Safety Makeover program, homeowners can get a "home safety survey" to help them identify problems in a house, including inadequate smoke alarm systems, excessive reliance on extension cords that might pose a fire hazard and clutter that might cause falls.

On April 21, at the Walmart store on Garland Groh Boulevard, a "Spring into Safety" program will be held to show what kind of interactive education is offered locally. The event will help evaluators decide whether Hagerstown should be designated as a Safe Community, Weller said.

The event, to be held from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., will include fingerprinting identification, child safety seat inspections and installations, and bicycle safety education.

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