When National Fire Prevention Week rolls around each year, residents of Holland, Mich., eagerly anticipate lights, cameras… and sirens.
The highlight of the week is the Fire Prevention Week Parade, which consists of about 40 fire trucks, a marching honor guard, a Coast Guard boat and a bagpiper, among other features.
The best part? Every single fire truck has lights on and sirens blaring.
Now in its 35th year, the parade, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, was started as a way to grab the attention of residents and find a way to teach them about fire safety and prevention. The event has now grown into a community favorite and includes an open house at the Civic Center at the end, where residents can tour fire trucks and witness demonstrations of equipment. There are also booths galore packed with knowledge and activities highlighting both fire prevention and general safety practices.
“Years ago, we looked at this issue of fire prevention realized Fire Prevention Week, and specifically the parade, was our opportunity to engage the community,” Holland Department of Public Safety Captain of Fire Operations Chris Tinney said. “The big kickoff is always the Friday or Saturday before Fire Prevention Week. Every fire truck in the area participates, and then afterward, we all meet in a common area. While residents were here, we feed them information about how to prevent fires. Our purpose is to provide the community with the tools to prevent fires at home.”
Holland is one of many cities that are a part of the West Michigan Fire Prevention Council. In conjunction with a number of municipalities, the city of Holland hosts the parade and encourages community involvement in activities throughout the week.
“Lots of people come together to promote fire safety during Fire Prevention Week,” said West Michigan Fire Prevention Council President Jeff Potter. “There is great support throughout the municipalities, and we could not exist without the collaboration of these different departments. That’s what allows us to put on the parade and the other events.”
Potter has served on the council for a number of years and notes the parade as a favorite event. Nearly six months of planning goes into it, and a number of municipalities are invited to participate.
“There’s something about watching 40 trucks lit up, accompanied by the honor guard and bagpipes, rolling down the street,” he said. “It’s neat to see the different departments and the community come together. Seeing the kids smiling and pointing and looking at all the different trucks, all the firemen take the time to talk to the kids about the trucks and explain the department … it’s a great day.”
This year’s theme is “Every Second Counts: Plan Two Ways Out,” and the council has designed a number of activities to encourage families to plan and practice their exit strategies in the event of a fire.
The real takeaway, Tinney said, is the educational benefits the community gains from taking an entire week to focus on such an important topic.
“Fire prevention is a year-round project. We use this week to really focus on it, but as a department, we do this all the time,” he said. “Fires are preventable. They are a result of human behavior, and the public needs to take an active role in helping us prevent that. Understanding that your local fire departments are a key resource is huge, and this week helps us make a point of that.”
Fire Prevention Week is also crucial in making citizens aware that their local fire department is there for them in a multitude of ways.
“We don’t just sit and wait for fires to occur,” Tinney said. “We run EMS and do fire education throughout the year. Fire departments should be out in the community educating them. It’s not just about fires anymore. There are lots of situations we have the expertise to help prevent.”
A few general tips Tinney said he shares all yearlong can prevent a world of trouble for residents.
“First and foremost, you need smoke alarms in your home and you need to maintain them,” he said. “Secondly, our experience shows that fires originate in the kitchen. Use care and pay attention while cooking. Other causes in the home include electrical, using appliances improperly and having candles and other open flames unsupervised.”
While fire departments work hard to make communities aware of these risk factors, Potter said having a week dedicated to the effort is helpful in grabbing the community’s attention. The cross-community collaboration is an added bonus and does nothing but help spread the message.
“Anybody who works in any type of city government can attest to this: Anytime you can get agencies to share the load and work together in harmony, not only is it spectacular, it shows how important this is to our community,” he said. “Together, we can do a lot more by pooling our resources than we can do by ourselves.”
This year, Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 8-14, and events include open houses, educational visits to schools and family-friendly activities to encourage proper planning and knowledge of the risk of fires in the home.
View a 15 second time lapse of the parade at https://www.cityofholland.com/fire/2017-firetruck-parade-0