By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — The Greenville Fire Department responded to the call to educate students on fire safety Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday this week. It was a perfect culmination to Greenville Elementary School’s October PBIS theme, “The Wave Way is Safe.”
A National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report entitled “Fire Loss in the United States During 2020” indicates that a home fire was reported every 89 seconds and a fire death occurred every three hours and 24 minutes in the U.S. last year.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than three-quarters of all fire-related deaths in Ohio occur in residential buildings, which is only slightly higher than the national average. It is easy to see the need for fire safety training at school and at home with statistics such as these.
Four firefighters from the Greenville Fire Department were ready for elementary students at stations set up both inside the gymnasium and outside the school building. Eager students filed into the gym and sat cross-legged on the floor where Captain Daniel Myers began by holding up a smoke detector, “What is this?” A chorus of small voices responded, “It’s a smoke alarm!” Myers questioned, “Does everybody know what it sounds like?” and went on to demonstrate the loud *beeeeep, beeeeep* of the device. “Do you have these in your home?” “YES!” the students answered. Myers continued, “What do you do when it goes off?” “Go outside!” came the entire second-grade class’s reply.
“What about at school?” furthered Myers. “I’m sure here at school you have a meeting place to go to where you can meet up?” “Yeah!” shouted the class. “What happens when you get to your meeting place, does your teacher go outside and count you?” Again, the students called out, “Yeah!” “So that’s why it’s important for you to go to your meeting place—so your teacher knows if you guys all came out or not,” explained Myers.
“Do you have a meeting place at home?” Myers wondered. “Yes, yes, yes… ,” and a big “No!” rang out. This quickly caught the attention of Myers who then posed another question, “Does your teacher give you homework?” to which the student resounded, “Yeah!” “Listen, I’ve got homework for you,” began Myers kindly but seriously, “so, anyone who doesn’t have a meeting place has to go home tonight and talk to your parents to come up with a meeting place. Ok? If your smoke detectors go off and you have to leave your house, you can go to your meeting place, and you can all gather there to make sure everyone gets out.” All students nodded in compliance.
“What happens if you get to your meeting place outside and you forgot your favorite stuffed animal?” Myers continued. “Forget it!” one small voice yelled from the group. “Forget it—that’s right! You are not supposed to go back inside, right?” Myers agreed with the child. “No!” sang the class. “Who’s gonna do that?” followed Myers. “Firefighters!” came the students’ answer. “That’s right,” encouraged Myers, “you get out and you STAY OUT!”
Myers continued to verify students’ understanding of fire safety, “Does anybody know what to do if your clothes catch on fire?” Students replied, “Stop, drop, and roll!” “Yes — stop, drop, and roll! Lay down on your belly, cover your face, and now, roll!” Myers instructed as a student volunteer demonstrated the technique for the class. Next, he questioned, “So, how long do we roll? When do we know to stop?” to ensure the students understood the importance of rolling until the fire is completely gone. “Keep rolling until you’re not hot anymore. If your clothes ever catch on fire, you do NOT want to run. That will make [the fire] bigger. You will stop, drop, and roll to put it out, and you roll until you’re not hot anymore,” Myers instructed. Each student then had the opportunity to practice “stop, drop, and roll” on the gym mats.
Next, firefighter Matt Hanish took his turn educating students about firefighter safety gear as he donned his uniform. Hanish showed students how firefighters would look and sound in full uniform, so children would never fear or hide from a firefighter in action.
Ms. Ball’s class then moved outside to meet with firefighter Troy Pearson. Pearson took students through the inflatable house, discussing safety procedures in high-risk areas, like the kitchen, and instructed children on what to do if they ever find matches or lighters or when they see food cooking or candles burning. Students also practiced crawling along the floor of the house just as they would to escape their own homes if smoke were present.
To wrap up their fire safety experience, students gathered around the department’s largest ladder truck, boasting a 100-foot reach. They learned how the ladder is controlled much like using a video game controller and each had their turn standing in the bucket (only a few inches off the ground). Finally, all students were able to sit in the firetruck and have their turns at handling a fire hose with firefighter Jordan Utrup. This remarkable day was sealed with the receipt of goodie bags and shiny red plastic fire hats for all.
In addition, Jessica Gorman, assistant principal, reported the firefighters have been eating lunch in the school cafeteria with the students during their visits this week. Three days of fire safety visits have allowed all kindergarten through second-grade students to enjoy this exciting and educational experience.
While the fire safety training targeted school children, everyone can take this an important reminder of some quick and easy ways to be prepared. The American Red Cross’s Central & Southern Ohio Home Fire Campaign encourages families to take two simple steps to stay safe:
1. Practice a two-minute fire drill
2. Test smoke alarms monthly
Do you need a smoke alarm? Call the Ohio Home Fire Campaign at 1-844-207-4509. The Red Cross and its partners can test existing smoke alarms and install up to three free smoke alarms for those who need them.
Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.