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In the News: Staying Alive program focuses on fire prevention
October 31, 2001

In his 12 years as a firefighter, Shane Ferguson has seen his share of tragic fires. It's the desire to prevent such tragedies that prompted the Winnipegger to establish the non-profit Staying Alive fire prevention program two years ago. The main goal is to educate youth and families about fire prevention, as well as teach them what to do should a fire occur.

"If it saves one person, you know you've done your job," says Ferguson. As part of the Staying Alive program, Ferguson visits schools and special events to share information about fire prevention and other related topics. School programs focus on Kindergarten to Grade 8 students. Ferguson talks to kids about everything from the danger of playing with matches and lighters to the importance of fire drills. He even dons his firefighter gear to show the students what a firefighter looks like when attending a fire. The idea, says Ferguson, is to help the children gain an important life skill, so that if a fire happens, they know how to react. Ferguson isn't alone in his desire to educate people about fire prevention. About 60 people, including fellow firefighters and paramedics, volunteer with the Staying Alive program.

In keeping with the program's mandate, the program has a website at www.stayingalive.mb.ca. Produced in co-operation with the City of Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, the site offers a variety of fire prevention tips and fire facts. One example is the fact that most fires occur between midnight and 6 a.m., when people are asleep and least prepared. Fire-related information includes everything from what to do if you are in a fire to creating a fire escape plan. The site also includes floor plans for various types of homes. Consider the following facts from the Staying Alive website: Most people will never face a major fire. But don't think that it will never happen to you. Statistics show that your life will be affected by fire three times, either through personal experience or the experiences of family and friends. Knowing what to expect and how to react can be the difference between life and death.

Fact: In a fire, you can't see anything because of the thick black smoke. Expect total darkness.
Solution: Thick black smoke will fill a room from the top down. Crawl along the floor to escape and keep a flashlight nearby to help you see.

Fact: The smoke and gases produced by a fire can kill you. If you breathe these gases while you're sleeping, you may never wake up. If you breathe them while you are awake, you may become dizzy, disoriented and die.
Solution: Have a smoke alarm in all sleeping areas to warn and wake you. Make sure they are working. Test them monthly and change the batteries annually.

Fact: Fire is extremely hot. The heat alone can kill you.
Solution: The coolest air will be along the floor. Crawl along the floor while you escape from a fire and keep your head in the safe zone between 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 inches) from the floor. Make sure you and your family practise crawling when rehearsing your escape plan.

Fact: Clothing can catch on fire.
Solution: STOP where you are, gently DROP to the floor, cover your face with your hands and ROLL quickly from side to side until the flames go out. To help someone else who is on fire, push them to the ground and have them roll. Cover them with a wool or cotton blanket to smother the flames.

Fact: Burns need proper treatment.
Solution: Put the burned area under cool water for at least ten minutes. Never put ice, lotions or butter on a burn. If the burn blisters or chars, see a doctor immediately. Don't try to bandage it yourself.

Winnipeg's Arson Hotline can be reached at (204) 986 - 1000. For further information, call the Staying Alive program at (204) 256-9351, e-mail: [email protected]

Article courtesy Transcontinental Weeklies

Brenda Fleming

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