For Immediate Release - September 26, 2013

19th Annual Public Fire and Life Safety Education Conference
Focus on Senior Fire Safety
Brockton Lt. Hendrigan and Westfield COA Director Tina Gorman Receive
2013 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Award


With the launch of the new Senior SAFE Program, the 19th Annual Public Fire and Life Safety Education Conference focused on fire and life safety for older adults in addition to the traditional resources for school-based and community programs. State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said, “People over 65 account for one-third of our fire deaths. The new Senior SAFE Program will try to have the same success at reducing these casualties as our school-based Student Awareness of Fire Education Program has had on child fire deaths in Massachusetts.” The average number child fire deaths has dropped 71% since the S.A.F.E. Program started in 1995.

Nearly 200 firefighter-educators, senior workers, classroom teachers, nurses, school resource officers and injury prevention experts gathered this week at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center for two days of training and skill development in 30 workshops and four general sessions presented by 44 speakers.

Focus on Senior Fire Safety

Public safety officials such as Mansfield Fire Chief Neil Boldrighini, Mansfield Det. Sgt. Larry Crossman, and Christy Geffen from the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, and speakers such as Westfield Council on Aging Director Tina Gorman, experts from the National Fire Protection Association’s Remembering When: A fall and fire prevention program for older adults and the Worcester Senior Support Team focused on senior safety. In addition, there were workshops on reaching linguistic and cultural minorities, people on the autism spectrum, college students, young children, middle school and high school students. There were workshops on program management and evaluation and workshops on hoarding and on developing school safety plans for all hazards.

Keynote Speaker – Fire Chief Reginald Freeman

The keynote speaker was Fire Chief Reginald Freeman of Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. Chief Freeman was formerly the fire chief in Hartford, CT and maintains his New England connection as an adjunct professor at Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA. He is actively involved in the national Vision 20/20 project that promotes strategic planning on reducing the toll fire takes on our communities. Fire education is a critical component of any successful strategy.

2013 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Award

The 2013 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Award was presented to Brockton Fire Lt. Robert Hendrigan and Westfield Council on Aging Director Tina Gorman. The other nominees recognized for their efforts were: Frank Carabell, Director of Operations, Lyons Ambulance Services; Firefighter/EMT Todd Correia; Fairhaven Fire Department; Firefighter Jeff Spring, Worcester Fire Department; Mike Swain, Campus Fire Prevention Officer, University of Massachusetts/Amherst.

About the Winners:

Brockton Lt. Robert Hendrigan

Lt. Robert Hendrigan spent 27 months reinvigorating and expanding the Brockton Fire Department’s S.A.F.E. Program. The program now reaches 5,000 students in kindergarten, first and third grades in Brockton’s many public and private schools. He successfully implemented the S.A.F.E. third and sixth grade evaluation tools in Brockton. During his tenure, two “young heroes” were honored. Lt. Hendrigan provided extinguisher training to school employees as a way of strengthening the fire-school partnership and one week later, an employee put out a fire with one. After analyzing his fire data, he launched a program targeting cooking fires in high-rise public housing and developed an education program targeting those senior and disabled tenants leading to a 7% drop in fires. He received the 2012 Rolf H. Jensen Award from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to implement the Apartment Fire and Life Safety program and also received the 2012 Liberty Mutual Fire Mark Award. Lt. Hendrigan demonstrates that with the use of data, problems can be solved.

Westfield COA Director Tina Gorman -2013 Educators of the Year

Tina Gorman is the director of the Westfield Council on Aging. As a result of four fire deaths among older adults in her community she responded by creating the “Retire the Fire! Program. Tina’s acknowledgement of this serious issue forged partnerships with the local fire department, the office of the State Fire Marshal, the Westfield News, Ace Hardware stores and city leadership for a full court press on fire safety for older adults during the week in March when we change our clocks. Her goal was to make sure that older adults had working smoke and CO alarms in their homes, to get the batteries replaced, and to educate the public about senior fire safety. The program used flyers, the Mayor’s cable show, and bi-lingual news articles to get the word out as well as one-on-one outreach through the senior center and Meals on Wheels volunteers. During the week, “Retire the Fire!” flyers hung throughout the city and buttons with the program phrase worn by Council on Aging staff, seniors, and community leaders were reminders that fire safety for Westfield’s older adults is a personal, family, and community effort. People were encouraged to take the time to check on older relatives, friends and neighbors and make sure they had working smoke alarms. The city plans to repeat the program again in 2014.

About the Award

This award honors an individual or a team for their involvement and commitment to make our world safer from fire and other preventable injuries. It seeks to recognize those who have exhibited excellence in educating their community members about fire and life safety, and have demonstrated outstanding leadership, teamwork, creativity and perseverance. Nominees may be of any profession.