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New technology helps Minooka Fire Protection District better serve community

The Minooka Fire Protection District has taken its job to serve the Minooka community to the next level with new programs, full-time child and adult education and modern technology.

In February, the district bought new software called Commandscope Pre-plan that went live in early April. 

Fire inspector Rodney Bradberry said the purpose of this technology was to pre-plan all of the commercial and industrial businesses so when an engine goes out to an incident, the office in charge can view all the vital information on their computers in the rigs.

“The more information we can provide our firefighters, the faster we can mitigate an incident,” Bradberry said.

The name of the game was safety. The software also can view a location in real time if there are cameras to see fires or situations such as an active shooter in a school.

As the district goes into the community for annual fire inspections, Bradberry said, they will take pictures inside of the buildings and add it to the pre-plan software for that building. 

When a fire or incident gets called out, Bradberry can bring up the plan for that building and send it to the computers on the trucks, and the firefighters can take note of the floor plans of the buildings, possible dangers such as chemical containers, etc. It gives the firefighters an early idea on what lies ahead.

Along with more than 300 yearly mandated business fire inspections, Chief Al Yancey announced that the new Home Safety Inspection service has begun for residents of Minooka.

With a phone call and request to the district, Bradberry will perform a fire and home safety check in residential homes free of charge. He uses a checklist to walk residents through their home and pinpoint areas of concern in order to educate them on hazards, which could lead to fire or injury.

“These courtesy home fire inspections are to reduce risk of fire. People think their homes are fire safe, but the inspector or firefighter can come in and look at it with a trained eye,” Yancey said.

On May 18, Jennifer Loffredo of Minooka invited Bradberry into her home, where she has two children younger than the age of 7 and her mother in her late 60s. Loffredo said she left her home in current condition for Bradberry to inspect.

Bradberry walked Loffredo through the home to check smoke alarms, the ease in which the windows opened in the children’s rooms, carbon monoxide detectors, where to place fire extinguishers, safety around the furnace and water heaters and talked about fire dangers with clothing dryers and the fireplace. 

He discussed escape routes in case of fire on the main floor and basement, where Loffredo’s mother, Cathy Schaffer, has a bedroom.

“This was absolutely worth it. He was here for 30 minutes and opened my eyes to things I need to do. I never even thought about the dryer vents, I need to get that cleaned and a fire extinguisher never crossed my mind. Those are things that need to be taken care of,” Loffredo said. “This gave me a good reminder. The kids see firefighter Cindy all of the time, but parents don’t have that reminder.”

As Loffredo said, firefighter Cindy teaches the children of Channahon and Minooka in schools from September to May. Cindy Wilson, fire and life safety educator, has a full-time position to educate residents from preschool to adult with her programs. Last year, she worked with 2,931 students from pre-kindergarten to second grade.

Each month, Wilson has a different safety topic to teach the children from fire drills, home-escape routes, how firefighters help the community, smoke alarms, kitchen, holiday and vehicle safety, poison education, bike and water safety and severe weather. She also goes into first-grade classrooms and measures the children for car seats and sends a note home to parents with correct car-seat recommendations.

She speaks to sixth-grade students about risk and has launched a new program for high school seniors about campus safety.

Wilson does not stop there. She teaches CPR and first-aid classes, babysitter courses, performs car-seat inspections and installations, a safety trailer, fire extinguisher training, juvenile fire-setters intervention and fire station tours.

The district also remains active on social media, its website, and with newsletters, community events, signs on its marquee as well as around town and with brochures and flyers.

“It’s unique to have a full-time person dedicated to education and prevention, full time between Channahon and Minooka. A lot of organizations don’t have that, only someone part time or during fire prevention week to cover the hot topics. Our department has education and prevention as a main focus,” Yancey said.

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