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Prince George's launches safety campaign to battle fatal fires

Saturday - 3/2/2013, 4:44pm  ET

Thomas Warren, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Prince George's County Fire Department unveiled new safety initiatives Friday in response to nine fire deaths in the county since the beginning of January.

In comparison, just ten fire-related deaths were reported in the county in all of 2012.

The new measures are part of the county's revamped "Safety First" program. It's been expanded, and given a new name: the "Safety First Day of the Month" program.

Each month, the department will release different safety tips to county residents. Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady says residents will see an increased firefighter presence as part of the plan.

"Firefighters throughout Prince George's County are going to go door-to-door for at least two hours a day knocking on doors asking to check smoke alarms, and providing fire information," Brady says.

Firefighters will be out visiting residents the first day of each month, regardless of the day of the week.

Fire officials say the heart of the new program will be to ensure homes have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms.

At a news conference, Fire Chief Marc Bashoor stressed the importance of residents making sure their neighbors have working alarms.

"The fire department can't be everything to everybody. We need the community to get involved, and check their neighbors' smoke alarms," Chief Bashoor tells Channel 7.

The department will also partner with Prince George's County Schools to provide students with proper evacuation plans for emergencies at their homes.

The move is prompted largely by the deadly fire in Glenarden that killed a father and two of his daughters on Feb. 21. The mother, and an 8-year-old girl survived. Firefighters say the girl's execution of an escape plan played a role in saving her life.

Firefighter Shaw Croissette talked to the girl after she was pulled from the fire.

"She was able to tell us that she made it out due to what she learned from firefighters, and teachers about fire evacuation plans," Croissette says.

Health tips will also be included in the monthly safety tips.

Brady says 80 percent of the department's 130,000 responses each year require a paramedic. And of those paramedic runs, a large number are related to diabetes.

"This month we also included breast cancer awareness guidelines," Brady says.

Promoting safe driving habits will also be among the Safety First topics, officials say.

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