Local firefighters will be visiting several daycare centers, preschools, and elementary schools to help promote this year’s theme of “Have 2 Ways Out!” which focuses on the importance of fire escape planning and practice.
“Our goal this year is to teach children, preschool through 6th grade, about the importance of helping their parents put together a fire escape plan that has two ways of getting out alive,” said Battalion Chief (BC) Randy Getz, HFD’s public information officer. “When the smoke alarm sounds, family members need to be prepared to think fast and get out quickly. And, it’s important for them to know another way out in case the first escape route is blocked. The skill is doing this improves by practicing it over and over again.”
BC Getz points out that people feel safer when they’re at home. Unfortunately, most fires occur at home and can disrupt this peaceful environment. The best way to make sure everyone survives this ordeal is for them to know exactly what they need to do to escape and find their way to safety. “For the younger kids, we teach them the ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ method in case their clothing catches on fire and we’re going to be showing them a video on the importance of escape planning,” BC Getz added.
The Hazelwood Fire Department uses a variety of educational tools to help teach kids about fire safety. For school visits, Hazelwood firefighters often bring their Safety Clubhouse with a fire truck equipped with aerial apparatus.
The clubhouse is actually a small replica of a house with a living room, kitchen, and bedroom which is handicapped accessible. Small groups of children are guided through this trailer and show how to avoid fire hazards. When they get to the top floor in the bedroom area, light non-toxic “smoke” is released to simulate a fire and the kids are taught to “Get Low and Go” by crawling to safety on their hands and knees. Firefighters then greet them in the patio area and help them down the ladder.
For the older students, Hazelwood firefighters present a “House of Hazards” classroom demonstration. Students are asked to identify the fire hazards that exist in each room. The firefighters then show them how to get rid of the hazards and make the rooms safe again. The importance of installing smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and CO2 monitors throughout the house is explained as well.
According to BC Getz, “Our fire department plans to visit 10 daycare centers and preschools, as well as two public and two private elementary schools during the week-long national observance and throughout the month of October. We also give presentations to businesses, civic groups, senior adult organizations, and scout troops just to mention a few. Anyone interested in having us come out and do a program on fire safety can call us at (314) 731-3424.”
Fire Prevention Week was a national public safety observance established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which took place on October 8-9, killing more than 250 people, leaving 100,000 homeless, and destroying more than 17,400 structures. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation. Since then, the National Fire Prevention Association has sponsored this week-long event on a yearly basis, making it the longest running public health and safety observance on record.