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Quincy Sparky
The Quincy Fire Department (Illinois) has introduced the newest member of the department, but he is a little different from other firefighters. He walks, he talks, he has a long nose and he has spots on his ears.

Sparky the fire dog made his debut to the Ohio Players' song "Fire" during a short press conference Wednesday at Central Fire Station. He will make his first public appearance Saturday at the Dogwood Festival Parade.

The Sparky costume was worn by Quincy firefighter Jerry Smith, who is part of the department's public education team. Firefighter Michael Dade, also a member of the public education team, said the department plans to use Sparky when dealing with younger children, especially in visits to area schools.

"Anybody that has kids knows that everyday when they come home from school, they want to talk about what they did," he said. "Firefighters coming in the middle of the day changing up their routine really leaves an impression on them."

Sparky will help present the department's Risk Watch campaign, which targets the children in the city.

"I think this is a little more kid-friendly way to deal with the younger members of our community," Dade said. "We want to fight fires through prevention. The more information that we can get out there to the most people is one of the best ways we can do that."

The Sparky costume cost about $4,800 and was paid for by money the department received from the Foreign Fire Insurance Board. The eyes can blink and wink, the mouth moves to the user's voice and programmed songs, and the user's voice can be modified. It also contains a cooling system.

"He has all these little personality traits that he can kind of use as we're talking to kids," Dade said.

Sparky has been part of fire safety and fire prevention for more than 60 years. He can be found in many educational videos and materials distributed by the National Fire Protection Association.

Fire Chief Joe Henning said the public education team has seen a renewed vigor over the last year.

"We've brought some new members on the team, and they really have been working hard to come up with new, different and innovative ways to take our public safety message to the public," he said.

More information on Sparky can be found online at sparky.org. He can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Brett3Guest post by Brett Brenner, ESFI

Although electrical hazards threaten the public at large, older adults are burdened with the gravest risk.  Adults over the age of 65 are more than twice as likely to die from a house fire as the general population, and this risk increases with age.  Those 75 years of age and over are challenged with a risk that is 2.8 times higher, and adults over 85 are at a staggering risk that is 3.7 times higher.  As baby boomers enter retirement age, it is predicted that the percentage of older Americans will increase significantly, thus making a corresponding increase in fire deaths and injuries among older adults probable.

Electrical failures are a leading cause of home fires every year, and electrical distribution and lighting equipment fires have been shown to increase in frequency with increasing dwelling age.   Homes with aging electrical systems are at a heightened risk for electrical fires, posing a serious risk for older adults who have remained in the same home for an extended period of time.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of the homes in use in the United States were built before 1973, which is long before many of the electronics and appliances we use today were even invented. Unfortunately, our increased demands for energy can overburden an older home’s electrical system causing fires or electrocutions. 

Many home electrical fires can be prevented by using more up-to-date technology and by recognizing warning signs your home may be showing.  Share these critical safety tips with your older loved ones, while also making sure you follow them in your own home:

  • Regularly check all cords, outlets, switches, and appliances for signs of damage or wear.
  • Use extension cords only temporarily.
  • Be sure that outlets that are not overloaded with too many devices.  They can overheat and start a fire.
  • Look and listen for warning signs of an electrical problem such as outlets and switches that are warm, or make crackling, sizzling or buzzing sounds. 
  • Always replace fuses or circuit breakers with the correct size and amperage. And make sure all circuits are labeled correctly.
  • Consider having your breakers upgraded to state-of-the-art AFCI circuit breakers. Keep the electrical panel accessible so you can quickly shut off power in an emergency.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Place alarms inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area. Test them once a month, change the batteries at least once a year, and replace the alarm itself every ten years.

NESM logo
These safety tips are part of ESFI’s National Electrical Safety Month campaign, “Electrical Safety for All Ages.”   For more information on National Electrical Safety Month and for ESFI’s complete “Home Fire Safety for Older Adults” program, visit www.esfi.org.  

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