Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fire prevention skills can save lives

A young girl came up to me with her parents and handed me her drawing of a female firefighter. Her parents explained that she searched for a female firefighter during our fire prevention event because she wanted her to have that. At the time I was one of four, but the only female there that night. She was as excited to find me as I was to receive her drawing.

Firefighters pride themselves on appearance of their uniform and the fire apparatus, and we waive to children when we pass them on the street. We see how happy it makes them. I like seeing how amazed children look when they see a female firefighter in the group, but it shows them that girls do it too. It wasn’t until fire prevention events when I heard the reactions of girls pointing me out as a female firefighter that I understood that we can make an impact on someone by how we look, even before we even share a safety message.

Firefighters have the potential of greatly impacting students during fire prevention assemblies in October. It may seem simple to teach children to not play with matchers or lighters, but many will do it without understanding the dangers of it. We recently assisted at an apartment building fire that investigators said began when a child played with a lighter under a bed.

During lectures on origin of fire, the instructor asked us if we thought a fire that began in a closet could have been arson. At first we thought it would be and the instructor said it could be. However, he added that it could also have been a child hiding in the closet playing with a lighter.

During fire prevention assemblies, the East Brandywine firefighters visited the four elementary schools in their first due coverage area in Downingtown and Coatesville. The assemblies focused on fire prevention tips and other important emergency topics such as how to react in an emergency, how to call 911, and understanding home escape plans. Firefighters also encouraged students to learn their home address in the event they need to tell a 911 dispatcher about an emergency at their home.

East Brandywine Deputy Chief Joe Edwards, who oversees the fire prevention program, said the firefighters educated more than 2,500 students on a “variety of topics that could save their lives.” Kids can practice such skills at the fire department’s open house event where kids can have fun without thinking about the dangers. If they ever need to use those skills, they will remember what to do.

 
East Brandywine firefighters assist children operating a booster line at the open house. 

Growing up I went to open houses and I wish the “smoke tunnel” was available back then. Earlier messages mostly informed people to exit their homes, find your family at a pre-destined meeting spot and stay out. During the open house event, kids practiced crawling low in a “smoke tunnel” which simulates a smoke-filled environment. While it’s a tool that teaches them what to do during an emergency, most kids came out on the other side with a huge smile on their face. We can’t help but smile back.

Kids crawl low out of the "smoke tunnel" during the East Brandywine Fire Company open house in October 2017. 

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