Predict and Ensure Safe Choices for the New Year!
Common sense is the best resolution, reminds Bay St. Louis fire chief Pam San Fillippo.
Most adults should be able to predict the outcome of bad choices and reckless behavior and therefore, much of the time, prevent the same. So please make responsible choices when engaging in fun activities. Keep them fun, and set an example for children and young adults. They pay attention to what we do and how we act more than you might realize.
Always have a designated driver. Don’t use alcohol along with prescription medication. And please make sure your children know that they won’t be in trouble, ever, for asking you to come get them after they’ve been out partying or drinking. And if the party (for kids or adults) is at your house, make sure no one drives home “impaired."
Be aware of your surroundings when you are in large crowds; watch the people around you who might have had just a little too much partying. If even one person is “getting out of hand,” it’s fairly predictable what will happen. It’s safer to leave the area and if needed, notify the police.
It’s a new year, and it’s a great time of year with a lot of fun things going on. I predict if you make smart choices in all of your activities, you’ll prevent bad things from ruining a fun time. Have a safe 2016!
Keeping the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Wonderful!
Bay St. Louis fire chief Pam San Fillippo gives some sound — and easy — advice to follow to keep your homes and families safe during this high-risk fire season.
If you think you’ll wake up in time to get out safely if a fire starts when you’re sleeping, think again. You probably won’t. That is a fact.
The most important thing you can do in preparing for the holidays is to have working smoke detectors in your home. If you have them, do you know for sure that they work? Do they have fresh batteries? If you have wired detectors attached to an alarm system, have you tested it recently? NOW is the time to do so! If you need help checking your detectors, give us (or your local fire department) a call. We’ll be happy to come check them. Also, if you do not have a monitored fire alarm system, please consider getting one! Too often we see devastating fires that could have been caught when it was small, well before it got out of control, if only there had been a monitored alarm system in use.
PLEASE be careful when using space heaters. NEVER leave them unattended, and be especially careful with them around pets and children. You should already have a plan for keeping your outdoor pets warm this winter. We’ve seen too many people who have lost everything they own, and their pets, from fires caused by a space heater. If you can’t bring a pet indoors, give them a good shelter out of the wind and lots of hay or blankets, and fresh (unfrozen!) water. Never put a space heater in an area where there are blankets, hay or flammable liquids. NEVER place heaters close to anything that can burn or melt. Always leave at least three feet of empty space around and above a space heater. Never put it on carpet or rugs, or near curtains, furniture or bed covers.
If you haven’t already had your fireplace checked and cleaned, don’t wait; do it now. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it should be cleaned each year before use. Gas fireplaces should be checked, and gas lines inspected by a certified plumber.
If you aren’t 100 percent sure if what you are doing is safe call us and ask for a supervisor or a chief officer. We’ll be happy to come take a look, give advice, and answer questions. That’s why we’re here, and that’s how we’d rather get to know you.
For more information on winter and holiday safety, visit this link.
Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season from the Bay St. Louis Fire Department!
Introducing Our "New" Firefighters
Six new firefighters join the Bay Fire Department after rigorous physical and academic training. Chief San Fillippo congratulates and welcomes them to the team!
These new firefighters are the future of the fire service, and the future leaders of our department. They will be responsible for leading the next generation of firefighters and preparing them for the tough job ahead.
They have chosen a career that is as dangerous as it is gratifying. They will see terrible things happen to good people; they’ll feel frustration and anger, and they’ll second guess themselves and wonder if they could’ve done more. But they will also do good and great things — things that no one else could or would do — and they’ll have many successes.
And even when they can’t “fix” the problem, just their presence will provide comfort to someone who is hurting or afraid. The boots they have to fill are bigger than they know, but I have no doubt that each of them is up for the challenge.
Congratulations to (in photo, from left):
Firefighter River Hayden
Firefighter Michael Guitreau
Firefighter Gary Maurice, Jr.
Engineer/EMT Gary Catalano (center, not in uniform)
Firefighter Derrion Elzy
Firefighter John Glidden
Firefighter De’Sean Reece (kneeling)
Time Change Brings Alarm Check
It's easy to remember - check your fire and smoke alarms twice a year when the time changes and you'll be protecting property - and lives!
- by Chief Pam San Fillippo
Historians debate the actual causes of each fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s cow might just be innocent!), but there is no debating the devastation that resulted from each. These two catastrophic events caused the fire service and public officials to change their perception of “public safety”: Fire Prevention Week was born, becoming the longest running public health and safety observance on record. Each year during the week of October 9th the fire service recognizes Fire Prevention Week and makes an extra effort to educate the public about fire and life safety.
These fires are ancient history to most of us, but devastating fires still occur. In fact, home fires kill an average of 8 people each day and each year firefighters respond to over 350,000 house fires that result in $7 billion in direct damages. And these are statistics from residential fires — commercial and business, industrial, wildland, and forest fires aren’t included!
Along with the loss of civilian lives, homes, forests, and businesses, fires will also kill about 100 firefighters every year (and injure or disable thousands more). One-hundred men and women who went to work one morning and never made it home because they were trying to save a building, a house, a patch of forest and sometimes, a life.
More often than not these fires and deaths were completely preventable, if people had learned and followed the fire safety advice from the professionals and acted responsibly. So we ask you, please make sure that you and everyone in your family learns about fire safety and practice it every day. It literally can mean the difference between life and death for you and for us.
We’ve said it for decades, and it still holds true today: 3 out of 5 home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. That’s why we tell everyone: each year when the time changes, change your smoke alarm battery – for wired alarms, check your battery back-up and test your system. If you don’t know how, contact your fire department. We’ll be happy to help.
Please join us in spreading the word about fire safety; learn about it, practice it, and take a moment to visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website. You’ll find a wealth of lifesaving information for consumers, educators and business owners: http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers
Personal Flotation Devices - what you don't wear may hurt you.
We have lots of excuses not to wear them, but this statistic may change your view: eight out of ten boating deaths could have been prevented. Chief Pam San Fillippo makes a persuasive case for life vests.
And there’s the problem first responders see all the time: someone just doesn’t think. We forget how dangerous water activities are, and we don’t think before we act. Out on the water “not thinking” is a recipe for disaster, and anyone who has lived near the water has seen or heard of water-related accidents and deaths. I know I sure have, and I can tell you most of them just didn’t have to happen, especially the ones that involved drinking and boating.
Did you know that 80% of boating deaths could have been prevented if a life jacket, or “PFD” (personal flotation device) had been worn?
Yes, 8 out of 10 deaths, preventable by simply wearing a life jacket. That’s a statistic that’s hard to argue with, yet we use every excuse imaginable for not wearing one: “They’re uncomfortable,” “They’re hot,” “I grew up on the water; I can swim like a fish.” Sorry, no excuses accepted. PFD’s have come a long way. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some are even like collars instead of a jacket.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts that can help keep your time on the water safe and enjoyable:
Read about pet safety on the water in this month's Puppy Dog Tales column!
Planning Ahead Pays Off
While no one likes to be reminded of hurricane season, being prepared is the first step to weathering one safely. This month, the Chief explains the resources the city has in place to help citizens do just that.
- by BSL Fire Chief Pam San Fillippo
We also have a great (free!) service to offer all Bay St. Louis residents and business owners: the city’s Blackboard Connect Emergency Alert System. This system is used by the fire department and other city managers to notify the public of important news or emergency information; once you are registered in the system, you decide if you want to be contacted via email, cell phone, home telephone and/or text messages. It’s easy to sign up, and you can opt out of this free service at any time. If you aren’t already registered, or if you need to update your contact information since you registered,just follow this link.
(If you don’t live in Bay St. Louis, check with the emergency managers in your city, parish or county to see if they offer a similar emergency alerting system, many do.)
Plan and prepare when things are calm. Don’t delay. I hope the links we've provided will help. No matter where you live, if you need information or other assistance don’t hesitate to contact your local fire department, law enforcement or emergency management agency for help.
Second to None
This month, Captain Pam San Fillippo introduces the company officers of the BSL Fire Department, the team members who make life or death decisions on a daily basis.
And if that’s not enough responsibility for one person to manage in a day’s time, consider that they are also responsible for carrying out most of the long and short-term goals set by the chief officers; they mentor, supervise and train the firefighters assigned to them, and they make sure that every fire truck and every piece of equipment is ready for service “24/7." Their 24-hour duty shift is filled with countless responsibilities, all vital to the safe and efficient operation of the department.
Sounds like a pretty tough job, doesn’t it? Well, it is. And here are the guys who make it happen, every day of the year.
Ronald Avery, Captain: Captain of “A” shift, Ronald is a veteran of the United States Air Force with a degree in criminal justice; he was hired as a firefighter recruit with the BSLFD nearly 20 years ago. Ronald has achieved numerous certifications during his career that include fire pump operations, high angle rescue, hazardous materials, incident command, command school, fire officer and fire safety instructor - to name just a few.
In addition to being an exceptional firefighter, Ronald is also one of our best public fire safety instructors. Combining his firefighting knowledge with the reputation of being one of the best disc jockey’s around, “DJ Avery” never fails to capture the attention of any audience.
Troy Buck, Captain: Originally from Indiana, Troy brings more than 25 years of firefighting experience to the BSLFD. He discovered Bay St. Louis when he traveled from Indiana to help out in the days following Hurricane Katrina - he immediately fell in love with the city and the people of Bay St. Louis, and moved here the following year.
A veteran of the United States Navy, Troy has also worked several tours as a firefighter in Afghanistan and Iraq. His numerous certifications include fire pump operations, weapons of mass destruction, incident command, investigator, instructor and inspector. As the captain of “B” shift, he especially enjoys preparing new hires for their basic training at the fire academy. Also a licensed plumber, Troy keeps busy on his days off from the fire department operating his own plumbing business, “Buck’s Plumbing."
Lorenzo “Zo” Armenta, Captain: Zo joined the BSLFD in 2007 after serving as a volunteer with the East Hancock Volunteer Fire Department. After earning his state firefighter certification, he has continued his training in various disciplines such as rope rescue, EMT, trench rescue, hazardous materials and pump operations. At 5’10”, 275 lbs. and “ink” from head to toe, Zo can strike a rather imposing figure. But underneath it all is a guy who has found his place in life as a firefighter - always ready, willing, and able to help anyone, anytime.
In addition to his firefighting skills, Zo is also fluent in Spanish and is often called on by law enforcement officers to act as an interpreter. On his days off from the fire department, Zo is busy managing his own lawn care business. Lorenzo and his wife, Ellyn, live in Bay St. Louis with their two children; Lorenzo also has a son who is currently serving in the United States Marine Corps.
This month, Chief Pam San Fillippo gives us a rundown of essential fire-fighting training and equipment that our Bay Fire Department needs to save both lives and property.
What It Takes To Do the Job
Training: New recruits must complete a seven-week basic training course at the state fire academy within one year of hire. Tuition and related expenses will cost at least $2,000.00. After this training (since firefighters are called to almost every emergency you can imagine) they spend their careers in continuing training for emergencies that are too numerous to list. Chemical leaks or fires, medical and trauma emergencies, vehicle extrication, high-angle rescue, fire investigations, fire prevention, and of course structural and vehicle firefighting are a few examples.
Fire departments must continue learning new techniques and purchasing different equipment to manage emergencies in a world that changes almost daily, Everything from hybrid vehicles to deadly street drugs to acts of terrorism are the new dangers of modern firefighting that were unheard of not so long ago.
Protective Gear: Firefighters can’t go into burning buildings or work around torn metal at vehicle accidents without very specialized clothing. Outfitting a firefighter with a few uniforms and a set of custom-fit firefighting gear (helmet, coat, pants, boots, hood and gloves) carries a price tag of about $3,000.00. As the clothing ages and loses the ability to protect the firefighter it must be replaced, usually every 5 to 10 years - or immediately if it becomes damaged.
Breathing Protection: In order to work in superheated air and toxic gasses, special clothing isn’t enough. Without respiratory protection the firefighter will not survive. The air tank and mask that firefighters wear is a “Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus” or “SCBA” (not to be confused with SCUBA tanks!) that allows them to breathe in otherwise deadly environments. It is the single most important piece of equipment a firefighter uses, and each unit carries a price tag of about $5,000.00. These are also replaced about every 10 years.
Equipment: Trained and protected in the right gear, our firefighter is ready to work. Now we have to get the firefighter to the emergency with the tools needed to handle... well, anything! Of course we need a vehicle - a fire truck. Average price tag: $400,000. Add another $50,000 for fire hose and nozzles, saws, axes, pry bars, flashlights, bolt cutters, various adapters, extrication tools, medical equipment, radios and communication equipment - and all of that is carried on each fire truck the department has in service.
Every emergency we respond to is different from the last, and the next. There is no such thing as a “routine” emergency. Our equipment sees a lot of rough use, and repairs and maintenance are expensive and seemingly never ending. Firefighters do what they can in-house, but most equipment repairs require specialized knowledge and tools, which of course, equals a hefty repair bill.
With five fire trucks and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tools and equipment, the costs involved in operating our fire department add up quickly. Yet, the finest fire truck and the best equipment money can buy is worth nothing without someone willing and able to use it anytime, anywhere, under any conditions, for anyone. For that task we need a firefighter, the one asset I hope you will agree is “priceless."
Just For Fun... Fire Equipment From Bygone Years
by Chief Pam San Fillippo
- This month, the chief explains how a monitored fire alarm system can save your home - and your peace of mind.
It doesn’t matter if it started because of a malfunctioning appliance or a bath towel left on top of a curling iron. The tragedy that only happens to someone else just happened to you, and no one will know about it until a neighbor sees flames coming from your house. Unfortunately, the firefighters will find Fido much too late, in the spot where he went to hide under a bed or in a closet. A tragic story that firefighters see all too often, but I assure you there are far worse scenarios.
What went wrong?
You had a dozen smoke detectors in your home, and the firefighters told you that they all activated like they’re supposed to - but no one was home to hear them and call 911. You can give Fido and your loved ones a better chance of surviving- with a monitored alarm system.
These systems work automatically. When a smoke detector is activated it notifies emergency dispatch - no one has to be at home to hear it, and anyone who is at home and unable to take action on their own doesn’t have to do a thing - and many services will even send an alert to your cell phone. When properly installed and monitored these systems are quite reliable. Yes, there’s a cost involved, but please read on. You might find that this important protection won’t cost you much, if anything, extra!
Many of us are willing to pay a lot of money every month for cell phones, data plans, internet service and premium TV channels - none of which are likely to save our life, property, pets or our loved ones. Installation of a monitored system can be very affordable, and the monitoring fees are typically around $30 - $50/month...but many insurance companies offer a 10% - 20% discount on your homeowner’s insurance. I personally pay a $50/month monitoring fee and receive a 10% discount on my homeowner’s, so I break even on the cost.
Easy to Operate
If you can operate a telephone you are over-qualified to operate an alarm system. When properly installed they are reliable and simple to use.
I hope I’ve made a case for the importance of monitored alarm systems and I really hope you’ll consider getting one. Do your own research, definitely shop around and always go with a reputable company.
Editor's Note: In 2003, my home and gallery on Main Street in BSL caught fire. The cause was probably a faulty hot water heater. I was working late in the historic building when my monitored alarm system went off.
Since I didn't smell any smoke or see any flames, I walked outside with my phone and pups to check on the back wing. Nothing there either. On the way back to the front, I heard the Bay St. Louis Fire Department responding, and saw their truck tearing down Main Street, lights flashing.
Sure that I was going to have to apologize to them for the false alarm, I walked back into the front part of the building, where I had been just minutes before. Flames were shooting out of a closet and wall and the building was filling with smoke!
I ran back outside shouting and the firemen leaped to work. They put out the fire in short order and only a wall in one room sustained major damage. Despite the excitement, our firemen took such care to save the artwork in the gallery. The damage would have been much more extreme without their attentive actions.
Point is: from the time the alarm went off until the firemen arrived and began to extinguish the fire was probably only five minutes.
If another four or five minutes had passed before I noticed the fire and placed the call and then another few minutes passed before the Fire Department had arrived, I have no doubt much of the building would have been lost. Even though I was actually present, the saved minutes made a huge difference.
I'll never own a home without a monitored alarm system again. And thanks again, Bay St. Louis Fire Department - I'll always be grateful!
by Chief Pam San Fillippo
-This month, The Cleaver introduces a new column by Chief San Fillippo, who heads up the Bay St. Louis Fire Department. Get to know the department better and the firemen who risk their lives to make our community safer. The chief will also be sharing fire prevention and safety information!
No one calls 9-1-1 because they’re having a great day. But when the worst thing you can imagine has happened, when you’re having your worst day ever, firefighters are on the way.
We come into your homes and your businesses to protect and care for you, your loved ones, your personal property - and even your children and your pets. We go into burning buildings when anyone with good sense is running out...and if you can’t get out, we’ll come get you, at all costs. We put out trash fires and woods fires, we extricate people from vehicle accidents, we do CPR, we contain chemical spills...and while we don’t get cats out of trees (they really do come down on their own!), we do rescue hummingbirds, sea turtles and ducks trapped in culverts.
So who are these people, these firefighters, who are willing to help people they’ve never met? They are men and women who thrive on that rush of adrenaline when a call comes in; they enjoy the challenges of dangerous situations; they don’t mind getting dirty, but they like to look good. They’re the people who are willing to run in when everyone else runs out because it makes them feel good; they know they’ve accomplished something few others can or will do and they hope they’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
To say it takes a special kind of person to be a good firefighter is an understatement. We come from very diverse, and sometimes less than perfect, backgrounds. Some of the best firefighters I’ve ever known will tell you that they were “heading down the wrong road” when they were lucky enough to be given an opportunity to turn their lives around and find their place in life as a firefighter; some simply had a desire to help others. But, a desire to help just isn’t enough...it takes a rough, tough person to be a good firefighter - a great firefighter is rough and tough, but also caring and compassionate - a rare combination. Regardless of their backgrounds, many firefighters bring a variety of other skills to the job - many firefighters are also electricians, plumbers, carpenters, divers, teachers, mechanics, musicians...the list goes on.
Firefighters everywhere are often referred to as “public servants” - a title, in my opinion, that is hardly befitting the professional men and women who come to work each day as protectors and guardians of our community, willing to meet any challenge the day brings, even at great personal cost. In the coming months, I hope you’ll enjoy meeting the men and women of the Bay St. Louis Fire Department - firefighters who very proudly protect the citizens of our community. And if you have a few minutes, stop by the firehouse...we’d love to meet you too!