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The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center

Recent Updates

NEWLY CERTIFIED FIREFIGHTERS NOW RESPONDING
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Pictured from Left to Right Driver Chad Cherrone, Firefighter Casey Sandoval, Firefighter Matt Sarrels, Firefighter Jacob Hosler, Chief Larry Lamb.

Three Niles Firefighters recently received their Michigan Firefighter 1&2 Certification.  This certification process began in September and runs through June.  Trainees invest over 300 hours during the training which includes classroom work and hands on training with practical and written testing to complete the training.  The successful firefighters also received certification in Vehicle Operation, Hazardous Material, and Incident Command.  The program is operated by the Berrien County Firefighter Training Committee which provides training to firefighters from all around the County.  
LIFESAVING EQUIPMENT IN SERVICE
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Firefighters have recently received two new thermal imaging cameras through the Federal Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program.  These specialized camera systems allow firefighters to see right through the dark and smoke laden conditions of a structure fire allowing them to quickly find trapped victims as well as locate fire spread.  These cameras see heat instead of light and portray slight temperature changes in shades of color.  This allows firefighters to find people as they're 98.6 degree temperature shows up much differently than the walls and heat from a fire.  The total grant award was for $12,210.   The lifesaving tools are now in service on the departments Ladder (6744) and Lead Engine (6723).  These cameras are one of the first items deployed on fires in the City as well as the Township.
Don't Forget the Sidewalks and Fire Hydrants
Firefighters Prepare for Medical Calls
Medical Training

City of Niles Firefighters are consistently training to assure they stay up on the latest techniques.  They work hand in hand with  SMCAS Ambulance Personnel to provide Emergency Medical Services to our residents.  This was a short class to teach firefighters how to use the new IGel Airway.  This new tool has been selected and approved for use by Berrien County Medical Control.  Firefighters in the City of Niles are trained to at least the Basic Emergency Technician Level  though several hold Advanced and Paramedic Certifications.   Firefighters respond to approximately 900 medical emergencies annually . 
Code Enforcement Corner
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Property Maintenance

Firefighters when not responding to emergencies do their best to assure our neighborhoods are healthy and safe for our residents.  They are out in the neighborhoods performing  a variety of inspection services.  These inspections range from commercial property inspections to rental property inspections  to exterior property items which includes zoning and local ordinance enforcement.  Some of the issues we find most include;  

PROPERTY MAINTENANCE
Leaves and Sticks - Take leftover leaves to the South County Landfill. The City Street Department also offers a brush chipping program but it is limited to  the amount of brush they can take. To get on the list call 683-4700 Ext. 3062 and listen to the message.  Remember there is no burning of yard waste allowed in the city.

Trash and Litter - Remember only those things that are being used for their designed purpose can be stored outside. Residents are asked to store items like furniture, tires, scrap lumber, and other misc. items, whether the items has value or not, inside.

Car Parking - Remember that cars  must be parked on driveways and cannot be parked in the yard, they shouldn't block sidewalks and they must be operational and plated to be parked outside a garage.

Trash - Trash containers should not be left at the street or in front of the house. Containers should be placed at the curb no sooner that 24 hours prior to pickups and should be returned following pick up.

Finally, don't forget to mow! Any lawn that reaches 10 inches in height will be mowed (without notice) and the property owner will be billed. 

Remember the law requires working smoke detectors in all sleeping rooms, outside sleeping rooms, and on each level of your home. They are your best chance of escaping a fire.

COMMERCIAL INSPECTIONS
Restaurants - Hood Inspection (6 months) and Cleaning (as required 3 months - 12 months based on use and style of cooking)not performed at appropriate intervals.

Fire Extinguishers - Not inspected annually with an approved service card.

Exiting - Egress lights out, batteries dead, blocked, etc.  It is so important to make sure occupants can escape as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Sprinklers - Fire Sprinklers save lives and property.  Assuring the system is tagged annually and inspected and heads are not blocked assures that it will function as designed when its needed.

RENTAL INSPECTIONS
Smoke Detectors - Detectors must be less than  10 years old, with a good power source.  They must be located inside each bedroom, audible from outside each bedroom, and on every level.  We recommend that you have both ionization and photoelectric to assure quick and appropriate alerting.

Windows - It is unbearable in the summer when you don't have appropriate ventilation in our homes.  The code requires screens from early spring to the fall on all open able windows.  They're must be open able windows throughout the home and in bedrooms they must stay open under their own weight. 

Carbon Monoxide Alarms - They are required in homes with 3 or more units or in homes where renovations take place.  It is recommended that they be installed in all homes with gas appliances, fire places, or attached garages.  

Please call the Building Safety Division at 269-683-2374 with any questions.

Past Updates

Emergency Medical Response Form

SMCAS & the Niles Fire Department Need Your Help

When we respond to emergency medical calls we are required to gather critical medical information that will later be used by emergency room doctors to help diagnosis the patient's problem. The names and amount or dosage of the medications you are currently taking is essential information that may help save your life. In many cases you may not be able to answer medical questions because you are incapacitated. The time it takes to collect this information could mean the difference between life and death. One simple way to help with this problem is to cut out the Emergency Medical Form available here. Complete the form and secure it on your refrigerator (you may also want to carry a copy with you). If privacy is a concern, simply place the completed form in an envelope and label it Emergency Medical Information. Emergency Medical Technicians and First Responders who are called to your home will look for this information on your refrigerator. This simple action will save valuable time if you need medical assistance. For questions or assistance you can call the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service at 684-2170 or the Niles Fire Department at 683-0160.

See and Print the Emergency Medical Form Here

Your Family's Emergency Escape Plan

Fire Safety

Practice Your Family's Emergency Escape Plan!

October is Fire Prevention month and is designed to remind residents that fire safety starts with them. But it is important to practice your Emergency Escape Plan with your family throughout the year.  Fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 1.6 million fires during 2006. These fires caused 3,245 civilian deaths and 16,400 injuries, according to a recently released National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report. Installing and maintaining smoke detectors, limiting clutter around cooking areas and routine attention to electrical cords, water heaters, furnaces and other mechanical devices as well as proper disposal of smoking materials, and using candles safely are just a few ways to limit your families’ risk to home fires.

The month of October is a great time to remember to talk with your family to make sure your home and loved ones are safe. The best way to prevent tragedies is to practice escape drills from various locations within your home. Start with working on the escape routes from bedrooms. Discuss with children two ways out of each room and where they should go once they get outside a smoke filled structure. We call this spot a meeting place. It could be a tree in the front yard, the end of the driveway, or the mail box. The most important aspect of picking a spot is that everyone is clear on where it is. We ask children in schools, "if you get out and are in the back yard and mom or dad are in the front yard, where do they think you are?" Everyone needs to exit the structure and go to the meeting place. The final part is to have the kids' lie down, push the detector to start the drill, and discuss with the children what they might do if a way out happens to be blocked.

Firefighters from the City of Niles and Niles Charter Twp Fire Departments work together every year to put out fires before they start. Firefighters spend the month of October in the schools providing safety education as well as countless hours at the Niles Apple Festival. The most successful education though occurs at home. Parents need to talk about fire safety at home to assure safety. Residents with questions can call their respective fire departments. We are always available to assist you in protecting your family.

Ensure Easy Access to Alleys
Please help us to keep our alleys clear. If your property abuts an alley you know the added work it takes to keep this area of the yard under control. The area approximately 3 feet on either side of the tire track must be kept clear from brush, bushes, and high weeds so that vehicles can easily pass. These alleys serve as a right of way for utility workers as well as sole means for many residents to get to their garages and rear yards. Enforcement officers and street workers have seen a real trend towards owners failing to maintain the access to the alleys. This not only makes it difficult for city workers to get close to the equipment that they need to service, it can also cause damage to your or your neighbor's vehicles. Though many of our residents keep their alleys clear it only takes one property owner to cause a restriction. If you live on an alley, please take a second to make sure that it is properly maintained.
Do You Have Enough Smoke Detectors?

DOES YOUR HOME HAVE ENOUGH SMOKE DETECTORS?

Many of us know by now that our families stand a much better chance of surviving a fire when there are working smoke detectors properly installed in our homes. Though we here at the fire department still occasionally see homes without detectors, it is getting much rarer than a decade ago. But we sometimes still see detectors without batteries or detectors that are outdated and should be replaced. Sometimes also, due to improper placement, detectors are triggered when cooking or because of shower steam. These detectors often have their batteries removed, which should never be done. The problem can be easily remedied by simply moving these smoke detectors to alternate locations.

Another well known and extremely important issue is that batteries should be tested regularly and changed every 6-12 months. Keep in mind as you are changing batteries that newer detectors may be equipped with Lithium batteries that last the full ten years without replacement. Something that is not so well known is that detectors are only recommended for 10 years of use. After that period of time they lose substantial ability to sense smoke and sound an alarm.

Finally, one detector is not enough to provide safety. Since we never really know where the fire will start its important that we have detectors located in several areas of the home. The International Property Maintenance Code requires a detector be located outside each bedroom and on every level of your home. This means that you must have one in the basement and finished attics as well. A recent addition to the code also requires detectors be placed inside each sleeping room as well. Many fire deaths have occurred inside bedrooms with closed doors, which prohibits the detector in the hallway from sending an alarm. If you have questions regarding the safe installation, operation or use of smoke detectors, please don’t hesitate to contact the City of Niles Fire Department at 269-683-0160.

Fire Prevention Basics

Fire Prevention is a Year Long Effort

About 4,000 people lose their lives and 20,000 are injured in fires each year.  Cooking related fires are the leading cause of home fires and injuries.  See the Prevent Cooking Fires update. The tips below may prevent your family from experiencing a fire tragedy.

  1. Are your smoke detectors less than 10 years old with good, working batteries?  Making sure you have good batteries in your smoke detectors is the first way to ensure that they will operate correctly when you need them.  And if your smoke detectors are more than 10 years old, consider purchasing new ones.  Newer smoke detectors have updates and are better functioning than many that were sold 10 years ago.  No one should sleep without several working smoke detectors throughout their home.
  2. Install a smoke detector in every level of your home, outside and inside every room used for sleeping.  Test you detector at least once a month and change the battery at least once a year.
  3. Are space heaters 3 feet away from walls, sofa, and anything else that burns?
  4. Always use candles with care.There should be a 3 feet diameter of open space around candles. Never place near draperies or other flammable objects. Never leave children alone with candles and always blow them out when you leave the room.
  5. Are extension cords working properly? Don't run them under carpets, or furniture legs.  Inspect all connections regularly for heat or damage.
  6. Encourage smokers to smoke outside.Never smoke in bed.
  7. Keep all lighters and matches up high and secured away from children.
  8. If you do smoke inside, make sure ashtrays are deep and sturdy and are emptied regularly only after assuring everything in them is completely extinguished.
  9. Keep all flammables including lawn mowers and motor cycles away from water heaters and furnaces. (Danger of leaking gas/fumes)
  10. Make sure your storage areas are clean.  There should be no oily rags or used paint rags stored inside your home, garage or shed.  
  11. Never leave cooking unattended.  A serious fire can start in seconds.  If you are tired or are under the influence of medication or alcohol avoid cooking.  Many people have been overcome when they planned to sit down for just a second and fell asleep.
  12. Don’t cook with loose fitting clothing.
  13. Clean cooking surfaces regularly to prevent grease buildup and make sure countertop are clear of combustibles at least 3 foot away.
  14. If fire breaks out while cooking on the stove simply cover the pan with a lid or cookie sheet to smother the flames.  If possible shut off the burner and stand back.  If you have an extinguisher, be careful that you don’t splash the burning liquid.
  15. If fire breaks out in the oven never open the oven door. Ovens are designed to hold a large amount of heat.  Simply turn off the oven and dial  911 for the fire department.
  16. Never use your stove to heat your home.
  17. Double check your kitchen before going to sleep or leaving the house.
  18. When in doubt, just get out.  The most important safety message is that fire can grow very quickly blocking your exits.  Get your family out of the house immediately!  Then Dial 911 from a neighbor's telephone.
In Case of Disaster Protect Your Pets

Everyone can benefit from having a household evacuation plan in place.  It is the best way to protect your family in case of disaster, whether it’s a large scale natural catastrophe or an emergency that causes you to leave your home temporarily.   Every disaster plan must include your companion animals.  These are some helpful hints to use when developing your plan:

1.  Keep your animal’s ID current. Consider including an alternate phone number on their tags.
2.  Have current color photographs of your pets to help identify them if they become separated.
3.  If disaster is imminent make sure you get your pets under cover as soon as possible.
Keep on hand disaster supplies for your pet:

  • Portable carrier
  • Food / Water bowl
  • Medications if needed
  • Health records
  • Leashes

If you evacuate take your pet with you if possible.  Determine before an emergency locations that can accommodate your pet.  If you must leave your pet leave plenty of water in containers not easily knocked over and consider leaving a faucet dripping in the bathtub.  Try to leave enough food to last 3 days and if you expect flooding provide access to elevated spaces if possible.  Finally put a note on the front door advising what pets and where they are located.  Also include your contact information in case they are found.  For tips or questions please call Berrien County Animal Control at 269-471-7531.

Mutual Aid Training
Area Fire Fighters Take Part in Mutual Aid Training
Mutual Training
Though area fire departments are as prepared as ever for average fires, larger ones still require help from other departments.  Niles firefighters have been both on the receiving and the giving end of this help.   Not unlike large cities that have many stations throughout the various neighborhoods, you can’t drive too far without coming to a community fire station in our area.  When these smaller fires turn into larger ones it takes a larger amount of resources to safely bring them under control.  A system called the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System is slowly spreading across our area in order to better coordinate this response.  To assure that these crews work together as one, a new effort of mutual training between area departments will occur throughout the summer in our area.  The first of 4 training sessions was held in Niles and focused on command and control and foam operations.  Firefighters found a tanker involved in fire that was quickly spreading to 3 area buildings.  Crews from Niles Charter Township and City, Buchanan City , Howard, and Clay Fire Territory took part in the drill which lasted about 4 hours.  Drills and other training are scheduled periodically to enhance response times and coordinate planning of operations for large scale fires.
Prevent Cooking Fires: Watch What You Heat!

Cooking equipment is involved in more than 100,000 reported home fires annually so the Niles City Fire Department asks you to pay attention when you cook.  Most cooking fires occur because of unattended cooking.  Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, broiling, or boiling food.  If you must leave turn off the heat source.  When simmering, baking or roasting food, make sure you check it regularly.  A good way to do that is to use a timer to remind yourself to check the stove.  Never leave dish towels, pot holders or oven mitts on your stove.

Grease fires can occur quickly.  Make sure you have an oven mitt and a lid near by.  When a fire occurs avoid the impulse to take the pan outside -- this can lead to serious burns and an uncontrollable fire.  Simply place a lid onto the pan and turn off the burner.  If it is safe, sliding the pan to another cool burner is also acceptable.  Never pour water on a grease fire.  If you don't have a lid use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out.  For many grease fires you can sprinkle baking soda on the fire to put it out.  It’s a good idea to always keep baking soda stored near your stove.  Remember the most important thing in these situations is that everyone makes it safely out of the home before a fire becomes uncontrollable.  If the fire is too big -- get your family out of the house fast and call 911 from a neighbor's home.

Children can be easily burned from spills and other mishaps occurring near stoves while cooking.  Make these Safety Tips second nature in your household:  Always turn pot, pan and skillet handles inward and when possible ensure the handles are facing the rear of the stove. . . this reduces the chance of accidental scalding of not only curious children but also anyone else who comes near the stove.  Teach children to stay at least 3 feet away from the stove at all times when you are cooking.  This will help ensure that children will not be in the wrong place at the wrong time to receive unnecessary, painful and sometimes life changing burn injuries.  When your child is old enough to take on directly supervised small tasks at the stove. . . TEACH SAFETY FIRST!

Have you ever been broiling and noticed a fire in your oven?  The first reaction is to open the door to extinguish the fire.  Ovens are designed to hold heat.  The best approach is to leave the door shut, turn off the heat, and call 911.

Finally, standard microwave ovens typically require 750 to 1100 watts of electricity to operate.  Make sure that they are plugged into an outlet and never into an extension cord to prevent overloading the circuit and causing a fire.  Use only microwave safe containers.  Allow food to cool for a few minutes before removing it from the unit.

Special Notice to All Renters: BEWARE!!!
What would you do today if you lost everything in a fire?  Many renters today assume that their landlord’s insurance will cover the replacement  value of their personal belongings: furniture, clothes, appliances. . . items that in many cases may amount to everything that your family owns.  But the landlord’s property insurance seldom, if ever, covers your individual personal items.  Often fires may occur through no fault of your own, but an accident in another apartment (or even the house next door) can quickly change the lives of your family.  One way your family can have some peace of mind and have some cash to help replace lost items is to buy rental insurance.  As a tenant you may be surprised to find out just how inexpensive rental insurance can be.  For example, some insurance companies offer a $25,000 policy that costs just $20 a month . . . and the insurance covers more than just fire loss.  Talk to your insurance agent.  You may find that if you rent you can assure yourself that if tragedy strikes your home everything that you’ve worked so hard to get doesn’t just go up in smoke. 
Fire Education Programs for Parents & Kids
Flash and Flicker Geared Up for Fire Prevention

As you may know, Niles City and Niles Charter Township Firefighters work together to ensure that all children in our community receive fire prevention and other safety information each year.  Both fire department’s firefighters volunteer countless hours of their own spare time in addition to their work hours and they come together as one team to reach their goal of making sure every child understands the importance of fire prevention.  By combining their resources these dedicated firefighters have developed outstanding fire prevention programs for our community.

The Berrien County Youth Fair has served as the springboard for each year’s round of teaching as the children's safety education show is presented on each Wednesday of fair week.  Flash, the little electronic fire engine and Flicker, the little boy puppet who speaks with Lt. Dan, delight the children as they learn.  The troop will be joined by Murph and Poky  the Clown, who also present their traditional show daily throughout the Niles Apple Festival.

These festival events are important to fire prevention and safety educators as in many cases it is the only time that they will be able to influence parents to practice fire and life safety procedures with their children in their everyday lives.

Niles City and Niles Charter Township firefighters have been performing and presenting educational services to the community for almost 20 years in both the Niles and Brandywine School systems.  In addition to fire safety messages the group teaches head injury prevention, resistance to drugs, traffic safety, 911 and much more.

Community Disaster Training
Emergency Responders Train

What would happen if there was a major disaster in our community?  Community leaders from all over Berrien County ask that same question often and have initiated adoption of new emergency response plans to handle a host of situations.  These plans call for coordinated efforts between communities and agencies.

The most important element of the emergency plans are the people from many different professions, volunteer organizations and others who will need to come together to effectively activate, manage and oversee emergency operations.  These are the people who will know what resources are available, where those resources are and what specific resources (including manpower) need to be utilized to handle the emergency at hand.

To that end, effective training, preparation, sharing of knowledge and resources; and yes, practice is needed and that is just what is happening in your community.    People from many different avenues are training so that they can be of utmost assistance and know what to do in a  major emergency.  People, to name just a few, like school administrators, radio operators, firemen, policemen, emergency medical technicians, utility crews, street  and construction workers, city  and township officials and transportation administrators are all vital elements of major emergency response.

Community leaders from all over the region met here in Niles during the month of March in the training room of the Law Enforcement Complex.  They wanted to discuss some aspects of emergency disaster response in our area.  They were able to get an overview of how each group will function as a team to make what needs to happen, happen.  They were able to get a better and bigger picture of how every single organization, agency, unit of government, volunteer, etc. would operate as an integral part of the emergency response needs of our communities.

The possibility of severe weather emergencies are now coupled with other types of  emergencies such as a possible flu epidemic and/or possible domestic or international terrorism situations.  Few people would argue that the need to be prepared to respond to these large scale emergencies has never been greater.

Representatives from most Niles Township and City of Niles departments as well as several local agencies including Niles Community Schools, Dial a Ride, Berrien County Sheriff's Department, Residential Services, SEMCO Energy, and Niles Amateur Radio specialists are a few of those who attended the recent training.  Many in attendance also serve on the Niles Agency Coordination Group (NACG), which has been brought together several times in the past to manage larger scale emergencies like the natural gas outage several winters ago and the 2004 tornado that caused widespread damage in Niles and Niles Township.  The concept of making sure training and planning takes place with members from all of these groups (who then go back and train others in their organization) helps to coordinate resources and equipment, increase communication between agencies, and reduce service duplication which all promotes a more effective and organized response.

The group also discussed new requirements coming from the Federal Government that will require most municipal employees, and several employees of the partnering organizations, to complete a series of classes by the end of September.  These classes are designed to educate responders on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) which standardizes Incident Command Strategies, Communication, Resource Management, and preparedness planning across the country.  It is the hope of leaders from all levels of emergency management that this coordination will help to reduce many of the problems which resulted following the devastation on the Gulf Coast.  If there were a major disaster in our community you can feel confident of the people handling the emergency.