Ask an expert - Andy Smith, Firefighter/Paramedic
Last updated 1/23/2020 at 8:52am | View PDF
How should families observe Fire Prevention Week?
Masks, helmets and air tanks are just some of the firefighting equipment that will be on display during the Hinsdale Fire Department's annual Fire Prevention Week Open House Saturday, Oct. 12.
Firefighter/paramedic Andy Smith, a 19-year veteran of the Hinsdale Fire Department, said the department works year-round to help prevent fires and to teach people what to do when a fire occurs. Fire Prevention Week is a chance to drive the message home.
Guests are welcome to visit the Hinsdale Fire Station at 121 Symonds Drive from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to meet firefighters and to get an up-close look at the equipment they use to protect the buildings and people of Hinsdale every day (learn more on Page 17).
The nationwide theme for this year's Fire Prevention Week is "Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!"
Smith said families can be their own hero by taking steps not only to prevent fires, but to respond correctly when and if a fire occurs. He encourages every family in Hinsdale to take time during Fire Prevention Week to talk about how they will escape and where they will meet once they've done so.
Fire Prevention Week is also a good time to test smoke detectors. Smith suggests sounding the detectors so everyone in the family recognizes the warning. Smith recommends changing smoke detector batteries twice a year and changing smoke detectors altogether every 10 years.
"Check those batteries every time you adjust your clock," Smith said.
To determine the age of a detector, check the date printed on the back of the device.
When it comes to preventing house fires, the best tool is common sense, Smith said.
"Don't leave things unattended in the kitchen or on the grill. You don't want to walk away from that," he said, noting that a majority of fires are caused by cooking mishaps.
Space heaters that are left too close to flammable objects, such as curtains and furniture, and dryers with dirty lint traps also are common causes for fires.
"Stay on top of maintenance for all of your appliances," Smith said. And never run them while you're away.
Even properly maintained appliances can be a hazard when used improperly. That Thanksgiving turkey, for example, should never be fried in the garage. Always move the deep fryer to an open area away from any structure and follow all of the manufacturer's precautions.
A member of the Hinsdale Fire Department for almost two decades, Smith said his job never gets old.
"I still get excited when a call comes in and I can help somebody," he said.
He doesn't need a five-alarm fire to keep his job interesting. By doing something as simple as helping an elderly person back into bed after a fall, he can end a shift knowing he's done something that matters.