Bellingham Fire Offers Seminars for Seniors
By Angie Fitton
Lieutenant Brad Kwatcher, the “SAFE Coordinator” of the Bellingham Fire Department, would like the seniors of the town to join him at the Bellingham Senior Center for great educational seminars. These events are free of charge, and take place at lunch time, while most everyone is gathered in one space. With the exception of the summer months, June through September, Kwatcher holds these seminars monthly. These visits are part of the “Senior Safe Program,” something that went into effect in 2013 when the Fire Marshal realized just how many elderly deaths were related to fires.
On October 10th, Lt. Kwatcher will be teaching the ins and outs of CO/Smoke Detector safety. Who is the target audience? For this specific event, it’s mostly seniors. He will be explaining what to do with the detectors when they do things like malfunction or make chirping noises. Kwatcher will discuss where in the home these CO/Smoke Detectors must be located.
“Eventually, within ten years, the only detectors on the market will have sealed batteries that last ten years, and won’t require changing, but until then, I want to ensure everyone knows when to change the batteries,” says Kwatcher. Why is he having this seminar? Because of the importance of fire safety and having the knowledge that detectors go off when a fire is at a certain point in order to allow for a safe escape. He also wants to discuss the importance of CO, also known as “the silent killer”, as it is odorless and invisible. The reason smoke detectors started having CO detectors built in was because of the passing of Nicole’s Law in 2005. “In Plymouth, a young girl named Nicole lost her life because an exhaust vent was blocked and she died from carbon monoxide poisoning,” Kwatcher explains.
On November 14th, the Lieutenant will be bringing a cooking prop from the Massachusetts Fire Academy to show seniors safety around cooking. He will go over things such as when to put lids on pots and how to turn off the stove or oven in the event of a fire. He will also emphasize the importance of not storing items on stovetops and how clothing and hair can be a hazard while cooking.
December 5th will be another important day at the Senior Center. Kwatcher will be discussing important winter safety tips. He will teach how to prepare an emergency kit in case of loss of power or a state of emergency. What to do with medications and food, such as canned goods, will also be a topic of conversation. The Lieutenant then wants to educate on proper use of generators and the importance of making sure pathways to the home are cleared of snow and ice in the event of a necessary evacuation or for the Fire Department to get into the home to assist in case of emergency.
Along with going to the Senior Center to educate seniors, Kwatcher assists with the Student Awareness Fire Education (S.A.F.E.) Program. This program originated in 1993 when the state Fire Marshal came to the conclusion that the number of fire-related deaths involving children was far too high. The goal of S.A.F.E. is to educate school-aged children on fire safety, with follow up to ensure the program is working.
While students of all ages are educated, in 3rd, 6th and 9th grade, Fire Districts do evaluations and test the knowledge of the children being taught fire safety. The idea is to be sure they are absorbing the information and to adjust the curriculum based on test results. “For instance, if a majority of 3rd graders get a certain question wrong, we know to increase education around that topic,” states the Lieutenant. Since the inception of the program, fire-related deaths involving children have dropped by approximately 80% statewide.
To learn more about how to attend these free, educational lunches, please call (508) 966-0398. The address of the Senior Center is 40 Blackstone St, Bellingham, Mass.