ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
It happens when you least expect it.
A meal left to burn on the stovetop, a broken wire near an outlet or an unattended candle – all can start a fire that moves slowly at first and quickly swells into a nearly unstoppable, life-threatening blaze.
Fires happen sporadically but since the beginning of 2016, fires have already occurred within the homes of Airmen and their families, to include dryer and cooking fires, and only the quick response from emergency responders prevented the fires from causing further damage.
“It all comes down to paying attention,” said Ernest Rios, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention chief. “Pay attention to your housekeeping, your surroundings and when you’re cooking or even just near a flame.”
The fire prevention experts recommend to never leave open flames or cooking unattended, to check lint traps regularly as well as checking electrical outlets to make sure they are being used properly. In addition, family members of all ages should know and follow a shared emergency escape plan.
“The most important thing we recommend is to maintain fire education for the whole family,” said Tech. Sgt. William del Castillo, 36th CES NCO in charge of fire prevention. “Fires can happen anywhere and anytime and it’s a good idea to make sure your family is prepared for one.”
Fire safety awareness needs to be a year-round priority to save lives, del Castillo said, and while some adults may feel confident annual fire safety training is all they need, it is imperative to brush up on procedures frequently and to practice for an emergency.
Andersen firefighters recommend that, in case of fire, residents use their established escape plan and proceed to a designated rally point, a safe distance away from the flames and smoke. Once outside, immediately call 911 and describe the situation to dispatchers as calmly as possible.
Children should know their address and how to contact emergency services in the event of a fire or other emergency. One of the most important things to remember is to give arriving responders full accountability of your family.
“Let us know immediately if someone is missing or if they are still in the house,” del Castillo said. “Whether it’s a family member or a pet, we want to get all lives out of the house before we start fighting the fire. We want to save lives before we save property.”
While still manageable, firefighters encourage the use of fire extinguishers or other individuals to fight the fire safely while waiting for support but caution awareness of the dangers of smoke inhalation.
“If you can’t extinguish it safely, don’t be a hero,” del Castillo said. “We have all the equipment and personnel to safely extinguish the fire. We don’t want anyone to get hurt trying to do so if it isn’t safe.”
While major buildings such as the base dormitories and wing headquarters have fire alarms that alert firefighters to the emerging danger, base housing has smoke detectors that simply alert residents within the household to the danger but do not alert the emergency services. Fire extinguishers, alarms and smoke detectors alike should be inspected routinely to ensure proper operation during an emergency.
While it is important to take the correct steps in case of a fire, Rios cautions that it is essential to prevent fires in the first place.
“We work proactively (to prevent fires),” Rios said. “Our fire safety and prevention methods stop fires and save lives before the danger even starts. If Airmen and their families take the steps to prevent fires, it will save more lives and protect assets from fire damage.”
For more information please contact the fire safety office at 366-5264/5284.