Town looks to ‘drive’ fire prevention to next level

A burning desire for increased fire awareness education has led the town to apply for a $120,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant for fiscal year 2013 to acquire a fire safety and emergency training trailer.

The goal of obtaining the trailer is to “take fire prevention education and make it an everyday service,” Fire Chief Peter Siecienski explained in an interview with the Post on Tuesday.

While many towns focus on fire safety for only a few days in October during Fire Prevention Week, the safety trailer would provide an opportunity to educate community groups at a higher level several times a month throughout the year, Chief Siecienski said.

The “beauty” of the unit, he added, is that it is interactive and would be applicable to people with disabilities, seniors, children and a wide variety of other groups. Its mobility would also allow firefighters to educate residents at fairs, neighborhood meetings, residential complexes, senior centers and plenty of other accessible locations, the chief said.

Seniors in particular would benefit from increased fire safety education, Chief Siecienski said, because many fire-related incidents involve elderly people who don’t properly use frying pans or allow their clothing to get too close to grease.

The trailer, however, would be comprised of a variety of educational components, allowing residents of all ages to benefit from its training opportunities.

Although the unit would be customizable, Chief Siecienski said he has several educational elements in mind that will likely comprise the trailer if the STEAP grant is awarded to the town. They include components such as an interactive bedroom scenario in which residents learn how to crawl close to the ground in thick smoke, a kitchen module that is vital due to stove hazards, a sprinkler mock-up room, a mock 911 center for children to learn proper protocol and a training room in which fire marshals could tell real-life fire stories that would drive fire prevention and awareness messages home.

There is even the option to include a severe weather component, which would particularly help a coastal community like Greenwich understand the ramifications of big storms, Chief Siecienski said.

“The community is very engaged in public safety and fire safety in particular,” making the acquisition of the trailer all the more important, he said.

According to State Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149), the trailer is necessary to keep up with best practices in fire prevention and she’s been working at the state level to make it a reality for Greenwich.

Whereas “stop, drop and roll” was the longtime mantra of fire safety, “We’ve gone way beyond that,” she said. Fire safety techniques today are high-tech and sophisticated, making tools such as the fire safety trailer necessary “if we want to meet the goal of fire education for everyone.”

After the tragic 2011 Christmas day fire in Stamford in which three young girls and their grandparents were killed, “the more education we have, the better,” Ms. Floren said.

Although STEAP grants in this pool total $20 million and are highly competitive, the town believes the fire safety trailer to be a very worthy cause and takes its grant application seriously, something Ms. Floren said can only help its chances of getting the money once the state makes the final call this autumn.

“The town is very professional, very thoughtful and totally meritorious in applying for the grant,” Ms. Floren said. “Greenwich has never been greedy and has always been very professional in its submissions.”

Even with partial STEAP grant funding, the community is committed to obtaining the trailer by asking alternative sources such as educational foundations and insurance companies to help out, she added.

Ms. Floren said she is hopeful that the grant money will pull through in full and that the town will get extensive use out of the trailer, which would be staffed by both paid and volunteer firefighters alike.

This particular pool of STEAP grants will be awarded before the Nov. 6 election, Ms. Floren explained. Accordingly, she believes the town would receive notice regarding its application at the Sept. 28 bond meeting.

The construction of a fire safety and emergency training unit takes roughly four to six months, according to the town’s grant application. The town subsequently verified within the application that the acquisition of the trailer would be completed within the first year after the STEAP funds are released.

Thereafter, the town has pledged to be responsible for all other costs associated with the upkeep of the trailer.

 

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