Tag: Simulator

B.Y.O.E. = A special community meeting on fire extinguishers


I was running late – to my own community meeting!

But we’d done some good planning, and by the time I got to the community room, a handful of volunteers were already digging into the oh-so-carefully-packed box of supplies. Name tags went out onto one table along with colored pens; handouts went onto another.  Two people were pinning photos from past events all across the back of the room. And refreshments had magically appeared on a table in the corner. (“Make people walk past the photo display to get to the cookies.”)

I saw immediately that our guest speakers had arrived before me, too!

But my back-up host had directed them to the electrical set-up, the microphone and projector were humming, and as neighbors started arriving, fire extinguishers in hand, everyone was standing about just casually chatting!

What a relief!  All I had to do was grab that microphone, take a deep breath, and gather my thoughts for the introductions! Here I am, a few minutes later, double-teaming with our fire captain.

“Bring your extinguisher, wear your Team vest . . .”

What was behind this special community meeting on fire extinguishers?

Pretty simple. We’ve had two fires recently in our neighborhood. In one, the whole house was engaged before the fire department arrived. (No person injured, but two pets died.)  In the other, smoke filled the kitchen but an observant neighbor noticed, grabbed a fire extinguisher, ran across the street and stopped the fire before any real damage was done.

The obvious lesson:

“If you can catch a fire right away, and you use the right equipment, you can put it out yourself.”

After the most recent fire, we took a poll of neighbors.

  1. “Do you have a fire extinguisher?”
  2. “Are you confident you could put out a fire in your house with your extinguisher?”
  3. “Have you ever even USED an extinguisher?”

Too many “no” answers! 

So we contacted our local fire department for help.

Not only were they willing to come do a special community meeting on home fire extinguishers, but they offered a magnificent surprise – a chance for us to actually practice putting out a fire.

But not a real fire.

We had the chance to train using a laser-driven fire extinguisher simulator!

First, we went over the basics of fire extinguishers.

In fact, we had invited everyone to BYOE — BRING YOUR OWN EXTINGUISHER – and it made a big difference! 

Many people had never even taken their extinguishers out of the box! Hardly any knew what sort of fire their extinguisher was good for. And I don’t think any had searched out the date of manufacture.

Imagine if you will a room full of people, many clutching red and white fire extinguishers in their laps, as our fire captain went over the basics using a power point presentation. There were MANY interruptions, much squinting to read the fine print, and MANY questions before it was over. (Remember, this meeting took place in a senior retirement community.)

  • Classifications tell you what kind of fire this extinguisher will put out – A, B, C, D and K.  In our group, nearly all were A, B, C.
  • What’s actually INSIDE the extinguisher? Again, for our audience, probably dry chemical that comes out as a powder to smother the fire.
  • How long is the extinguisher good for? “Check the date.” (This became an embarrassment and pretty humorous as people found the dates and called them out. The oldest extinguisher in the room dated to . . . 1987!)  The recommendation from our fire department – “Check ‘em often and replace after 5 years to be sure it will work when you need it.”
  • Where and how to store it? (Designated place, clearly visible. Turn it upside down and hit it with your hand to loosen the powder.)
  • Other comments – Only attempt to put out a fire you can control. Have an escape route. Call 911. and many more . . .

Then it was time for the SIMULATOR training!

Step back, you’re a little too close.

The head of our local CERT training stepped up to demonstrate the equipment. The digital “flame” on the screen was very bright, very realistic! The green dot from the laser was easily visible.

Before she was completely finished, people were already lining up to try it! (What a relief. As meeting planner you just never know what kind of reaction you’ll get!)

PASS – not so easy to remember when you have an extinguisher in your hands and the clock is ticking.

Our fire captain had gone through the steps to extinguish a fire.

And our CERT trainer had gone over them again, demonstrating two or three times just how the equipment works.

Still, when people came up to try, sometimes they forgot! They dropped the pin. The extinguisher was quite heavy and some couldn’t hold it and squeeze at the same time. A couple squeezed before they aimed!

Everyone was terribly engaged. Some were anxious. All were watching VERY closely.

Can she do it?
Too heavy? Hold it between your knees.

More than half the people in the audience tried the simulator. And everyone succeeded in putting out their fire. (A few did need a couple of tries.)

More important, as our CERT trainer observed, every one walked away with new-found confidence.

As the community meeting on fire extinguishers broke up, several people told me they wanted to learn more about our city’s CERT training and others wanted to join our local neighborhood response team. (We have no requirement for CERT training.)

As we gathered up all the stray handouts and took down the displays, we were very satisfied at the outcome.

Gotta love volunteers who stay to help tear down.

Could any meeting be more successful?!

Why yes, because that very evening I got several thank-you emails with many positive comments.

At 9 a.m. the following day our office manager wanted copies of anything that was left over “because people have already been coming in asking about it.” A bystander in the office volunteered, “I’m going to buy a new extinguisher for myself, and two for my daughter.”

Then the manager added, “I have never seen people come out of a meeting with so much excitement. They were talking and waving.  They were laughing. They were energized!

Fire extinguisher Simulator LED screen
The Bullex Digital Fire Simulator uses LEDs to create a “fire,” and the special fire extinguisher (same size and weight as regular one) “puts the fire out” using a laser beam.

I think you can agree, somewhere along the line this training will pay off. I hope you can add a similar meeting to YOUR group’s schedule!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. I’ll be adding this to my next collection of published Meeting Ideas! Let me know if you want to be on the pre-publication list!