It's national Fire Prevention Week, and we at the Madison Fire Department want you to LOOK, LISTEN, LEARN, BE AWARE: Fire Can Happen Anywhere!
Each year, the Madison Fire Department’s Community Education Division stops by nearly every elementary school in the Madison Metropolitan School District, as well as a number of private schools, spreading the message about fire safety. It takes the entire month of October (and sometimes a little bit of September!) to reach over 7,000 students between kindergarten and third grade. This year’s fire prevention message aims to teach kids to BE AWARE of what’s safe, what’s not safe, how to recognize a problem, and what to do when you need help.
BE AWARE of what’s safe and not safe around your home.
In round-robin fashion, kids visit “fire stations” all around the room to learn lessons about safety. At this station, Community Education Officer Bernadette Galvez guides children through a side-by-side matching game, where kids identify what’s safe and unsafe in each picture.
At another nearby station, the students meet with Fire Prevention Officer Doug Milks as he shares pictures and common household items, and the kids need to guess whether they are safe or unsafe. The items range from plastic toys designed for children to cigarette lighters and matches. With each object, the kids discuss why the item is safe or unsafe and what to do when they come across an unsafe item, like stepping away and telling a responsible adult.
BE AWARE of how to call for help.
Kids are taught to call 911 in an emergency, but how often do they get to practice without actually calling a dispatcher? Firefighter Mitch Hanson talks with kids about what is and is not an emergency, and then he gives the kids a chance to practice dialing 911 and speaking with a simulated dispatcher. The students get to practice stating their address and describing the nature of the problem so that the right kind of help arrives at their doorstep. Kids who don’t know their address(es) are encouraged to learn and memorize it when they get home.
Because many households no longer have landlines, it is important that kids know how to make an emergency phone call on an available cell phone. Reiterate to kids what is and is not an emergency so that they only call 911 when there is an actual emergency.
BE AWARE that kitchen appliances are for grown-ups.
The kitchen presents a number of hazards for children. Firefighter Adam Thimmig is on hand to explain that children should stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven. They should never play with the knobs, and if there’s a pot on the stove, they should remind the adults to keep the handle turned inward to reduce the chances the pot is bumped or knocked off the stove. Only grown-ups should be near the stove, and they should always stand by it when cooking. Never leave an active stove or oven unattended.
BE AWARE what a firefighter looks like. They are helpers!
Although the kids got to meet their friendly neighborhood firefighters face to face in the safety of their school, those same firefighters will look a lot different during a fire call. When fully protected by their turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus, the friendly person they met at school may look more like a scary monster, especially in darkness and smoke. It's very important during these school visits for the Madison Fire Department to take the time to show kids what a firefighter looks like when all dressed up, and to remind them not to be afraid-- we are there to help!
As Firefighter Hanson puts on his gear, from boots to helmet and everything in between, Firefighter Thimmig explains the process, and why it's important that no skin is exposed on any part of the body. When Firefighter Hanson dons his self-contained breathing apparatus, the kids get to hear the sounds it makes, especially the "Darth Vader noises" created when he's breathing.
BE AWARE what a smoke alarm sounds like.
Grown-ups are reminded to test their smoke alarms every month. Meanwhile, it's important that kids know what a smoke alarm sounds like, and what to do when they hear it. At one of our "fire stations," the kids gather around as a teacher makes noises with one of three objects hidden inside a bucket. The kids guess which one is the smoke alarm, and of course they know it's the object making three high-pitched beeps! Because smoke rises, kids are reminded to crawl when moving to safety. When approaching a door, feel the door with the back of your hand to see if it's warm or hot. If the door is warm or hot, they should use another exit.
Remember, it's important to know two ways out of every room! Create a home fire escape plan so you know what to do when one of your exits is blocked.
Fire Safety Fun!
Finally, the kids meet with Acting Lieutenant Lori Karst, who asks a series of yes/no questions that test the kids' knowledge of general safety. Much like the game Twister, they spin to find out what color to place their hands and feet on.
These interactive lessons leave a memorable impression on the thousands of children we reach each year, all while building connections with their neighborhood firefighters.
Share and practice these and other Fire Prevention Week tips with your own household today!
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