Whately FD trains Covestro workers in equipment company funded

  • Whately Fire Captain J.P. Kennedy trains employees of Covestro in Whately on the proper use of a fire extinguisher. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Employees of Covestro in Whately train on the proper use of a fire extinguisher. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Employees of Covestro in Whately train on the proper use of a fire extinguisher. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • An employee aims at the base of the fire and sweeps back and forth to extinguish a simulated paint locker fire at Covestro in Whately. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/13/2019 10:20:22 PM

WHATELY – Roughly 20 Covestro employees took a break around noon Friday to participate in a demonstration of a fire extinguishing training device their company purchased.

Covestro, at 8 Fairview Way, donated $10,500 for the propane-fed, live-fire training prop. Fire Chief John Hannum Whately and Fire Capt. J.P. Kennedy spent roughly 45 minutes on a cold, somewhat windy day instructing volunteers on proper firefighting procedures. 

“The advantage to this type of system is that it’s a live-fire training prop. It’s as safe as a live-fire training prop can be. It allows us to have a rapid turnover, because we’re using water instead of a chemical,” Kennedy told The Recorder. “So the water’s meant to simulate a dry chemical in both weight and how it would behave in the extinguisher. But there’s no cleanup – so when we’re done, we’re done.

“The only thing that’s not realistic about this prop, “he added, “is that there’s no smoke.”

The equipment belongs to the Whately Fire Department, which will use it to train other civilians.

Employees were told that in the event of a fire, they should tell one specific person to call 911 and another specific person to pull the fire alarm as soon as the fire is spotted.

Ellen Kennedy, wife of J.P. Kennedy and formerly of Northampton Ambulance, explained it is vital to designate people for those tasks instead of just shouting for “somebody” to do them. She said “somebody” will always assume “somebody else” will do it.

J.P. Kennedy mentioned to The Recorder that Saturday is the end of National Fire Prevention Week.

He told employees they should always give the extinguisher a test squeeze and then follow PASS – Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. According to the United States Department of Labor’s website, anyone attempting to extinguish a blaze should pull the extinguisher’s pin to break the tamper seal, aim low and point the extinguisher’s nozzle at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent, and sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out.

J.P. Kennedy said that, whenever possible, you should have someone behind you with a backup extinguisher so you don’t get overcome by smoke. If the extinguisher is empty or not working, you should drop it and run, closing the door behind you.

Each employee outside tested the new prop, guided by J. P. Kennedy’s gentle instruction.

“Let’s see if you were listening,” J.P. Kennedy said to one employee after demonstrating the equipment. “Let’s fire this baby up right here.”

“Leave me any juice?” an employee joked to a co-worker as he took the reins.

Employees practiced telling one co-worker to call 911 and another to pull the fire alarm before spraying the fire.

Jim Boehm, general manager of Covestro’s Whately facility, said the location makes two types of specialty films — thermoplastic polyurethanes and polycarbonate — used in various industrial applications, such as security identification cards.

J. P. Kennedy told the volunteers those films produce toxic fumes when they catch fire.

Boehm said the donation was a great opportunity to support the local fire department, which J.P. Kennedy said has conducted fire safety training for Covestro for several years.

“If there were ever an incident here, we count on them to respond,” Boehm said after the demonstration.

Boehm explained Covestro is a global company with 16,000 employees, of which about 180 work in Whately.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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