Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Police & Fire

Fire outreach program takes message to seniors


Volunteer Gerry Tremblay and Toledo Firefighter Gwen Haynes-Burel work with the Seniors Advocates for Fire Education (SAFE) program. It is a collaboration among several organizations.

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Before Gerry Tremblay became a volunteer for the Senior Advocates for Fire Education (SAFE) program, he managed an apartment building mostly occupied by seniors.

Mr. Tremblay knows the preventive actions that protect people, specifically seniors, from the threat of a fire or natural disaster, and he shares that knowledge as a volunteer for SAFE.

The program helps the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department promote fire safety and prevent fire emergencies and harmful or life-threatening situations.

“I do this for the satisfaction, for paying it forward and educating even myself. As volunteers, we learn something new every day,” Mr. Tremblay, 69, said.

He held up a smoke detector in a package with a five-year warranty stamped on it. The warranty, he said, is from the manufacturing date, not the purchase date, which can mislead consumers.

These nuances and important safety tips are what volunteers educate their senior peers about in the Toledo area. The program started in 2005 and is a collaboration with the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department, and the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.

SAFE has 11 volunteers, and the Area Office on Aging is seeking more to assist area fire departments with the program. “The information that our volunteers help us communicate is even more important today, especially because of the catastrophic weather events that have been happening,” said Toledo Firefighter Gwen Haynes-Burel, one of the program’s volunteer firefighters.

Volunteers teach emergency preparedness to other seniors, ensuring they have an escape plan in case of fire, food and water supplies, and medication in case of a natural disaster. The program also focuses on reporting unusual happenings, calling 911, and watching out for neighbors. The only requirement for volunteers, besides being over age 55, is to be “willing and able,” Firefighter Haynes-Burel said.

To volunteer, call Jackie Simpson at 419-725-7031 or email her at

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