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Allentown officials extol smoke detectors, planning at city's first neighborhood fire drill

Jason Addy
Allentown resident Frederick Seidl reaches to set off a smoke alarm during the city's first-ever neighborhood fire drill. Local officials participated in the fire drill, including (left to right) Mayor Matt Tuerk, Fire Chief Efrain Agosto, Sen. Nick Miller and Firefighter James Soccodato.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A family in Allentown’s Jordan Heights neighborhood beamed with pride Saturday morning after acing the city’s first-ever neighborhood fire drill.

The Seidls invited Fire Chief Efrain Agosto, Mayor Matt Tuerk, Sen. Nick Miller and members of the media into their North Law Street home, where Agosto gave a quick lesson on fire-prevention measures they — and all Allentown residents — should take.

"There should be at least one smoke detector on each floor in a home, while every bedroom should have its own."
Fire Chief Efrain Agosto

All families should have a designated spot where they will meet if their home catches fire, Agosto said.

Go-bags filled with “essential” items like prescriptions, insurance cards and other documents should always be ready to grab on the way out the door in case of an emergency, he said.

And there should be at least one smoke detector on each floor in a home, while every bedroom should have its own, Agosto said in the living room before Frederick Seidl led the chief upstairs to check the rest of the house.

Frederick Seidl then set off an alarm to kick off the day’s main event: a mock emergency drill.

The dozen or so people inside quickly exited as the unmistakable beep of a smoke alarm filled the Seidl home.

Jason Addy
Allentown Fire Chief Efrain Agosto speaks with the Seidl family during the city's first-ever neighborhood fire drill Saturday, June 8.

The family met with officials down the street at their designated meeting spot, where Agosto offered some more advice to the family.

“I think we should do more of this. I’ve seen a lot of homes in Allentown … burn up real fast with everything being so old.”
Allentown resident Frederick Seidl

He urged them never to go back into a burning structure to try to save a pet or grab anything, warning the smoke and heat is “going to knock you down.”

“One big breath, you’re going to fall down and you’re not going to get up,” he said.

He also urged Allentown residents to call 911 for support from the Allentown Fire Department even if they think they’ve extinguished any threat from flames; and never use water to put out a grease fire on the stove, he said.

After Saturday’s quick-fire drill, Frederick Seidl encouraged Miller, Tuerk and Agosto to hold more to teach residents.

“I think we should do more of this,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of homes in Allentown … burn up real fast with everything being so old.”

Seidl said he’s worked on many of the homes in his neighborhood and is worried that a fire in one means “this whole row could go up.”

“These houses will go up like … (snap) … like that,” Seidl said, emphasizing how a simple fire drill with city officials could save residents’ lives.

Miller said he and his staff organized Allentown’s inaugural neighborhood fire drill because they “want to make sure the community’s safe.”

The state senator said there have been several recent fires where “there weren’t smoke detectors in the house.”

“It’s such a simple thing,” Miller said.

“Rather be safe than sorry,” Stacey Seidl interjected to agreement from all in the room.