Barbara Kaulback, a resident of Somerset Apartments in Rumford, receives fire extinguisher training as Rumford Fire Chief Bob Chase and other tenants watch last week. The Fire Department has been working with tenants to develop an emergency plan.

Rumford Fire Chief Bob Chase, left, gives instructions on fire safety to residents of Somerset Apartments last week.

Rumford Fire Chief Bob Chase watches Darla Plourde leave Somerset Apartments in Rumford during a fire drill last week.

RUMFORD — Firefighters recently held a fire drill at Somerset Apartments, after one of the tenants asked them to help develop an emergency evacuation plan.

The coordinated effort began when Barbara Kaulback, a resident of the 24-unit complex for 16 years, began to worry about residents’ safety should there be a fire at the Hancock Street complex.

“These people, the firemen, have been wonderful and very helpful,” she said. “It’s peace of mind and it’s good to see how it all comes together. We work together on it and hopefully we don’t have to use it. But if we do, we’ll know what to do.”

Rumford Fire Chief Bob Chase said he met with the residents and building management five times over the past year.

“Initially, we discussed the safety of the building and conducted a tour/inspection of the building to identify ways that the residents and management could increase the safety of the facility. I also worked with the group to identify building emergency coordinators to help other residents in the event of an emergency.”

Cheryl Smith, property manager for Stanford Management at Somerset Apartments, said, “One of the concerns was if we have a fire, what do we do? Do we take the time to get everyone out? No, you get out. I know that’s a real hard thing to grasp because we’re human and want to save everybody. But if you don’t leave and you’re running around this building, you’re actually risking a fireman’s life.”

Smith said a prevalent topic at meetings was what are some of the common sense things that we could put in place in case of an emergency.

“We’ve talked about cooking fires, how to prevent them and how to be prepared for them,” she said. “We have emergency coordinators for each wing. They were worried about their neighbors. They talked about people with mobility issues and who will help them and how.”

During the fire drill last week, Chase told tenants that “one of the most important things you can do when you leave a building is close the door. When evacuating a building, every door you pass through should get closed. That’s what keeps the smoke in that one spot, and doesn’t let it get out and affect the rest of your neighbors.”

He added, “If you have a purse, so you can make some calls, and your medications are in it, that’s always important, too.”

Chase said having an emergency plan provides tenants with some comfort “so that in case of a fire, they’ll know where to go and what their role is. I just think it’s a huge concern with elderly, handicapped, disabled people. They have challenges beyond just a fire.”

Following the fire drill, several tenants trained in using a fire extinguisher.

“It’s about contact and public safety,” Chase said. “I suspect we’ll come back to this facility, at least annually.”

National Fire Safety/Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 8-14.

Fire Prevention Day is Monday, Oct. 9.

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