CAMAS — Fire trucks and ambulances are common sights in any town or city. Most citizens only ever see them as they rush by to respond to an emergency. At the Camas-Washougal Fire Department Open House, Health and Safety Fair, held on Sept. 23, visitors got a chance to see firefighters and equipment up close and in action.
The annual event was sponsored by NW Natural and the American Red Cross in conjunction with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.
The open house and Health and Safety Fair is one of eight similar events held throughout Washington and Oregon “focusing on preparedness,” said Nina Carlson, community affairs manager for NW Natural.
Previous open houses held by the Camas-Washougal Fire Department focused on the capabilities and services of the department itself. Showing off those capabilities was still a cornerstone of Saturday’s event, but the event was focused on disaster preparedness this year, said Daphne Mathew, public information officer for NW Natural.
According to Mathew, the open house this year shifted its focus to help guests become more prepared for natural disasters in the area, such as earthquakes. To help inform more people, the American Red Cross held a classroom presentation called “Prepare out Loud” that showed guests how to better prepare for emergencies and natural disasters.
“NW Natural believes preparedness is essential,” Mathew said, and the company “wants customers and the general public to be prepared.”
While Saturday’s event marked the first fire department open house geared toward disaster preparedness, the Camas-Washougal Fire Department has been hosting open houses for about 15 years, according to Deputy Fire Marshal Randy Miller.
The open houses have all helped attendees learn more about health and safety, and have often seen over 1000 people attend each year. However, 2017 is the first year the fire department partnered with NW Natural to host the event, Miller said.
With increased awareness in Clark County from recent wildfires and the ever present possibility of earthquakes, the open house and emergency preparedness information was “pretty timely,” said Sherri Breitner of the Fire Marshal’s Office.
While the event concerned serious subjects, Breitner said “it’s great for kids. We gear it for families.”
Many local organizations and agencies related to health and safety or disaster preparedness were present, and many had learning tools and prizes geared toward kids. Children could listen to informative demonstrations and models that taught safety around the house and outside. They could also play games and learn about health and safety at some of the booths.
Attendees could learn about a variety of disaster preparedness topics. The American Red Cross hosted an information table in addition to the “Prepare out Loud” presentation.
Representatives from PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Trauma Services provided information about avoiding injuries.
Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, the agency that handles local emergency calls, was present with a booth outlining their work and services. Clark Public Utilities and NW Natural hosted booths that taught safety around gas and electrical appliances and systems.
Various health organizations such as Cascade Dental also shared information about general health services.
Throughout the event, attendees were kept engaged with raffles and hands on exhibits. The Camas-Washougal Fire Department, for example, hosted an information table that demonstrated how to perform CPR in an emergency.
Chief Nick Swinhart of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department said that the event was not held last year, but that the fire department plans to continue hosting the open house in years to come.
It allows the fire department “to be able to tell them a little about our operations,” Swinhart said. Swinhart also said that disaster preparedness was a main focus of the event not only for the represented groups and agencies but the fire department as well.
The fire department is “really trying to draw attention to that this year,” Swinhart said.
In addition to the information booths held in the main fire house, demonstrations of fire department practices continued throughout the day.
Attendees watched as firefighters extinguished a burning car. They also got to watch as firefighters cut into a wrecked vehicle in a simulated emergency extraction of an occupant. In addition to the fire department demonstrations, a Life Flight helicopter landed at the fire station, and visitors could look inside the aircraft.
Additionally, the fire department supplied a trailer exhibit that provided a first hand look at the advantages of in home fire sprinkler systems.
The Camas-Washougal Fire Department Open House, Health and Safety Fair is held annually at Station 42, located at 4321 NW Parker Street in Camas. The exact date for next year’s event has yet to be set, but it generally occurs in the early fall, said Breitner.