By Amanda Spadaro, The Meadville Tribune, Pa.
Oct. 06–“Remember, there’s no reason to be afraid of them,” said Pat Wiley, captain for Meadville Central Fire Department, while two fully-dressed firefighters trekked around Second District Elementary School’s gym to show children what a firefighter’s suit feels and looks like, part of the Fire Prevention Week programming with the fire department.
Meadville firefighters were at Second District Monday morning to teach students from kindergarten to third grade how to prevent fires and how to react in case of one. Lt. Jill Staaf and fireman Bob Byers wore full gear, including air tanks and masks, while some children shouted out the firefighters looked like turtles.
The week from Sunday to Saturday that includes Oct. 9 is Fire Prevention Week, typically the second week of October, what Wiley called his “favorite week of the year.” During this time, the fire department stops by the Meadville schools and some daycares, teaching children about important steps for fire prevention and safety. Wiley said the students are always very receptive and excited, usually taking a good bit of knowledge home with them.
The presentation at Second District included a video that walked students through the most important steps to prevent fires. The first tip: never touch a lighter or matches, a concept Wiley made sure to stress with children. If the students found either laying out, they were instructed to immediately tell an adult.
“Tell an adult” was one of the common phrases during the presentation, which is also how the program aims to improve household safety, according to Wiley, since the expectation is the children will tell their guardians what they learned at school.
“By doing this, the kids actually help the parents out. We tell them to basically harass the parents,” he joked. When the students go home, they are encouraged to look for the smoke detectors in their homes and make sure their parents keep the detectors running with fresh batteries.
Wiley told the children the batteries in smoke detectors should be changed twice a year, advising that whenever the clocks change for Daylight Savings Time, the batteries should be changed as well.
Smoke detectors are the best way to prevent fires, a simple fix many people might forget about, according to fireman Joe Smock. Making sure the batteries in smoke detectors are charged is a small thing that can prevent bigger problems, along with carbon monoxide detectors. For those who have gas appliances in the home, carbon monoxide alarms can be “life-savers,” Smock said, since carbon monoxide is a toxic but odorless gas put off by the incomplete burning of materials like coal, wood, charcoal or natural gas.
Individuals who do not have detectors are encouraged to get in contact with the local fire department, which may be able to supply a few detectors, Wiley told the students.
Aside from telling an adult about smoke detectors and fire hazards, students were given instructions on how to make a plan with family members so everyone would know what to do in an emergency, including establishing a meeting place outside of the home.
Other tips from the fire department included feeling the door with the back of the hand, not the palm, to see if there was heat coming from the other side of the door. If there was, the children were told not to leave the room, but rather to throw a toy or unusual object out of a window. Wiley said his job includes checking the structure’s perimeter to check for anything unusual. By throwing a toy or hanging a sheet out of a window, the fire department knows where to look for people trapped inside.
The “fall and crawl” method was also discussed, so if individuals can escape, they are meant to do so by staying low to the ground to avoid inhaling smoke, which rises.
Wiley said he has seen it work when applied. A fire in March 2014 destroyed a home on Arch Street, but thanks to a 5-year-old boy, the entire family was able to leave the home in time. The boy woke up his parents and his three siblings when he heard the smoke alarms going off, Wiley said.
Monday’s event ended with a fire drill at Second District, when students always try to beat their best previous time, said Kurt Meader, principal. Any time under two minutes is considered a good time, Meader said.
Monday’s drill was possibly one for the record books, Meader said, with the entire school evacuating in one minute and 16 seconds.
Fire Prevention Week culminates with a kid’s day on Saturday at Meadville Central fire station, giving the kids an opportunity to “be a fireman for a day,” Wiley said. The children will be able to use the fire hoses, see what it’s like to put out a small fire and have lunch with the firefighters. Registration for the event has already ended.
(c)2015 The Meadville Tribune (Meadville, Pa.)
Visit The Meadville Tribune (Meadville, Pa.) at meadvilletribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.