Chester VFD takes message mobile to schools

CHESTER – The Chester Volunteer Fire Department’s new “Kids Safety House” doesn’t leave much to the imagination when it comes to fire safety education.

The trailer, complete with fog machine, heated doors and working smoke alarms, promotes a realistic, hands-on approach to fire prevention, said Chester VFD spokesman Brian Handley.

“The more children who see it, the better,” Handley said. “We’ll take it anywhere, as long as we have someone to operate it.”

The fire department recently bought the 1995 Serro Scotty trailer from a dealership in Mt. Pleasant, Pa., after another fire department traded it in for a newer model, he said. The purchase and certain modifications, including new exterior lettering, cost about $16,000, Chief John Hissam said. New fire safety trailers can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000.

“I think we definitely benefited by getting this as a starter model,” Handley said. “It didn’t need anything major done to it at all.”

The fire department is now ready to take the safety house on the road, starting with a trip to Chester’s Allison Elementary School on Oct. 17 and 18. Its various rooms and features will be more effective than previous methods for teaching children about what to do in a house fire, Handley said.

“It’s one thing to talk about a smoky environment. It’s another thing to go through it. It’s a big difference,” Handley said.

The two-story trailer has a miniature living room, kitchen and upstairs bedroom. The living room has a fake fireplace that can be used to teach fireplace safety, Handley said. The kitchen has a non-working stove that can be used to teach food preparation safety, he said.

Upstairs, an F-100 Performance Fog Generator pumps harmless smoke into the bedroom, giving children the opportunity to learn about escape routes. But first, they must check the door to see if it’s hot, Handley said. The interior door has a heating element that makes it warm to the touch.

The simulated smoke fills up the room in seconds, and if the door is hot, children will be instructed to find a secondary exit. “That’s one of the most important things we try to teach,” Handley said. In the safety house, the secondary exit is an upstairs window that leads to a porch and a ladder.

The trailer also has working smoke detectors and a phone that can be used to place in-house “911” calls. All the features are operated from a tiny control room on the first floor. The fire department also plans to add a TV and DVD player for showing instructional videos. “We’re pretty proud of it,” Handley said.

Other upcoming stops for the “Kids Safety House” are Little Einsteins Preschool in Chester on Oct. 21 and the Lynn Murray Library in Chester on Oct. 22 and 24, Handley said.

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