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Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company Honored with 2017 James W. Wright Public Education Award

NYSAFC presents this award each year to recognize excellence in the delivery of fire and life safety public education in the Empire State.

The New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC) is pleased to announce that the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. of Washington County has been named the 2017 recipient of the James W. Wright Public Fire Safety Education Award. NYSAFC has presented this prestigious award since 1995 in recognition of outstanding effort in delivering fire and life safety public education programs to citizens in New York state.

The award was presented to the department on May 6, 2017, during the 44th Annual Fire & Life Safety Educators' Conference hosted by NYSAFC and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention & Control at the New York State Academy of Fire Science in Montour Falls, N.Y.

In August 2016, the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company held its first “Junior Firefighter Academy” Summer Camp, targeting children in grades four through eight. The department implemented its fire prevention education program in 1981 and developed the camp after looking for unique ways to reach this age group. Firefighters found that the hands-on program, which involves more than the traditional distribution of fire and life safety tips, is a positive approach. It was so successful that it will become an annual event conducted by the department's fire and EMS personnel.

In its first year, 32 children participated in the free, full day, weeklong program that is focused on the development of four core character values – caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. The program is conducted in a “boot camp” environment to emphasize the importance of the subjects addressed, but includes fun activities, demonstrations, and team building exercises where students utilize the skills they've developed throughout the week. At the start of the program, students are assigned to a company and issued a uniform t-shirt and ID badge, and at the conclusion, they receive a certificate during a formal graduation ceremony.

Topics covered include fire cause and prevention, fire and life safety, CPR and first aid, and the importance of teamwork, physical fitness, and community involvement. The program also features an orientation of the fire service through a review of firefighting history, apparatus, tools, equipment, and operations. A Fire Prevention Safety House and other fire safety education props are used to reinforce fire prevention and safety messages. Students are also familiarized with smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and exit drills.

Upon completing the program, the junior firefighters play an important role in the fire safety of their families, classmates, and citizens in the community. They will assist firefighters during Fire Prevention Week, as well as each spring during the department's annual open house.

NYSAFC President Chief Joseph Fahd said, “We honor the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company for their commitment to fire and life safety education.” He added, “This program is a creative way to engage children and deliver life saving information. Preparing citizens of all ages to prevent fires and injuries, and ensuring they know what to do in the event an emergency does occur, is a critical part of what we do in the fire service.”

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