In case of fire
Concession workers run through extinguisher drills

By Daniel Silliman


The women pulled the pins from the handles of their fire extinguishers.

Joe Freeland, Atlanta Fire Department Inspector and the fire extinguisher drill instructor out at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, told the two of them how to hold the extinguishers.

He put a hand on the extinguisher to his right and on the one to his left, and the three of them, together, walked toward the fire.

Freeland counted the steps: "One, two, three," he said.

Outside Fire Station 40, inside the airport, a small fire blazed in a rusty, metal drum. A newspaper soaked with flammable fuel emitted an ugly, gray-and-brown swirl of smoke.

At the count of three, the two airport concession workers, Keyone Dupree and Mary Daniels, aimed the black nozzles at the source of the smoke and squeezed the extinguisher handles. Out of the nozzles, bust two steamy-white streams of foam. The off-white cloud surrounded the smoke, overpowered it, and orange flames disappeared.

When Dupree and Daniels let go of the handles, the clouds from the extinguishers dispersed with the wind, drifting away to reveal the extinguished fire.

"Now step back," Freeland said. "One. Two. Three."

Both Dupree and Daniels work at Wendy's restaurants in the airport and, passing the drill, became one of the roughly 100 concession workers trained in the last year on how to use a fire extinguisher.

Dupree was ecstatic. "I did it," she said clapping her hands.

Daniels said she had a kitchen fire once, but didn't know how to use an extinguisher, and had to improvise.

"I just got a box of salt and put it on the fire and made sure it was smothered," she said.

It worked, but fire extinguishers are a more reliable means of combating kitchen flames, Freeland said.

This October -- officially fire safety and prevention month -- the Atlanta Fire Department marked a year of conducting extinguisher drills at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

"We thought it would be a good idea to teach these people that work in concessions, and on fuel carts, how to use the extinguishers," Freeland said. "These kids -- and I say kids because that's mostly what they are -- they don't know how to use them."

There haven't been any major fires at the airport's 89 restaurants, or on the trucks fueling 976,447 flights every year, and if there were, the Atlanta Fire Department staffs five stations at Hartsfield-Jackson. But the training exercise is a project of prevention, Freeland said.

The half-hour classes have been in place every Tuesday and Thursday, and have been sponsored by Concessions/Pascal's and H.M.S.