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Trailer promotes fire prevention, safety

Lightning flashed outside the windows. The blinds shook from the thunder as a tornado warning ran across the television screen.

However, it was not cause for alarm because just like the public service announcements state, it was a test - only a test.

The severe weather simulation was just one part of a high-tech educational tool as the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department showed off its new 35-foot fire safety trailer at Coal Grove's Family Fun Days this week.

It was met with joy and excitement by many of the children who received an interactive education.

"The whole idea is to promote home fire safety," Chief Dewey Derifield said. "We are teaching children what to do if they ever have a fire in their own homes."

Twelve-year-old Tamara Nicely and her little brother Coty, 6, of Chesapeake took the full tour. While Tamara already knew most of the stuff, Coty learned a lot and said he had fun.

At first, the severe weather simulation had Coty a little nervous, even though he said he knew it was not real.

"Will you turn this off, please? This is scaring me," he said with a wide-eyed smile across his face. "I really don't like this."

Afterwards, Coty was feeling much braver and used a little revisionist history.

"It was pretty cool," he said. "I was not scared at all. I was just faking it."

Manufactured by the Pennsylvania-based company Mobile Concepts by Scotty, the handicap accessible trailer is equipped with a kitchen, living room and bedroom. Children can learn about stove safety, fire and carbon monoxide alarms, pull alarms, escape routes, how to make a 911 call and more.

Each room fills with non-toxic smoke and a door gets hot to let the children learn how to look for alternative exits and realize how difficult it is to see inside a burning home.

"The way it was set up impresses kids; it is kind of neat," Derifield said. "It gives them the total effect. It works a lot better than a dry lecture or showing them a film."

The trailer cost $52,000 and was made possible by the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It required 10 percent matching funds from the department.

After ordering it last year, the department received the trailer in April and unveiled it last month.

"We broke it in at the Charity Fair in Ironton," Assistant Chief Larry Anderson said.

"We had about 150 kids. They all loved the tornado package."

The department hopes to take it to the Lawrence County Fair and other public venues, Derifield said.

"We are willing to take it anywhere in the county," he said. "This is not just for Perry Township. We will show it to the fire department, organization, school or church. That is what we got it for."

Anyone who would like to set up a presentation can call the department at (740) 532-4131 or the chief at (740) 533-0662.