Mock fire drill tests senior center’s readiness for emergency

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023

LANETT —Fire Prevention Week is a couple of weeks away, but Lanett seniors and senior center employees were tested on their fire safety skills last Thursday with an unannounced fire drill.

“We wanted it as much like the real thing as possible,” said Lanett Senior Center Manager Sandra Thornton. “We’ve talked about this before and how important it is to be orderly and calm. From the time the alarm sounded, we had everyone out of the building in less than a minute and forty seconds. A total of 28 people were in the building at the time. That includes 20 seniors and eight employees.”

Thornton said she was really impressed with how fast Lanett firefighters got there and how they handled the drill.

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“Everyone was outside but they went through the building to make sure no one was still there,” she said. “They checked all the rooms, the kitchen, the hallways and even the bathrooms. They were really professional in the way they handled it, and all of us were most impressed. We had talked to the fire department about having a fire drill, and they were all for it. I thank them for their cooperation. It was a good practice for our seniors and the senior center staff.”

Firefighters arrived aboard Engine No. 827 and in two ambulances. The seniors and senior center staff were under the covered walkway between the center and the James A. Hardy gym when the firefighters arrived. They were then instructed to walk over toward the big fire truck in order to be at a safe distance from the main building. The firefighters included Matt Shiver, Jonathan Rollins, Brandon Ashford, Noah Hurst, Hunter Fulghum and D.J. McElvy.

Back inside the center, Shiver talked to them about the basics of staying safe.

“If dangerous weather is on the way, it’s best to be next to a wall in a hallway,” he said. “The main thing is to be away from windows. They could break with high wind. It’s not a bad idea to take a chair and be seated in it with your back to the wall.”

Shiver said that safe, orderly evacuation is what needs to be done in the event of a fire. “You just need to make sure everyone is out of the building,” he said. “It’s a good idea to have a buddy system where each person is assigned a fellow senior or senior center employee to make sure they are doing what they need to do in the event of severe weather or a fire alarm.”

“Let’s give a big hand to our firefighters for being here today and for the job they do every day for the people of Lanett,” Thornton said to some loud applause.

Thornton keeps a sign up sheet every day the center is open. Each senior signs in when they arrive.

“It’s just to make sure we know who all is here if we ever need to make a head count,” she said.

Fire Prevention Week will be observed throughout the United States from Sunday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 14. The National Fire Protection Association is the official sponsor, and this year’s theme is “Cooking safety starts with you! Pay attention to fire prevention!”

According to the NFPA, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires and related deaths. They recommend the following common sense safety tips:

•Always keep a close eye on what you are cooking. For foods with longer cook times, such as those that are simmering or baking, set a timer to help monitor it carefully.

•Clear the cooking area of combustible items and keep anything that can burn, such as dish towels, oven mitts, food packaging, and paper towels, a safe distance away.

•Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner.

•Create a “kid and pet free zone” of at least three feet around the cooking area and anywhere else hot food or drink is prepared or carried.