‘Safety Day’ draws thousands Guttenberg’s sixth annual event educates both young and old

Residents of Guttenberg attended the sixth annual “Safe Kids Day” last weekend, which showcased carnival attractions and local police and fire rescue personnel.

The event, which was held on Friday, Sept. 20 on JFK Boulevard East from 68th through 71st streets, allowed children to learn safety prevention tips while enjoying free attractions and refreshments.

North Hudson Fire and Rescue, the fire squad that covers five towns, was present with their “smoke house.” The apparatus allowed children to learn first-hand how they should crawl out of a smoke-filled room during a fire.

NHRFR Captain James Donnelly said that standing up even once and taking in “one breath of super-heated air” could put children’s lives at risk. “So we try to teach them that they have to crawl and stay low in the room,” he said.

Other organizations, like Hudson County Child Abuse Prevention, Hudson County Court Appoint Special Advocates, Weehawken E.M.S., Guttenberg’s D.A.R.E. officers, the Office of Emergency Management, and the U.S. Army were in attendance.

Public Safety Director Michael Caliguiro said that thousands of free hot dogs were given out, and more than 5,000 people attended from the township and surrounding areas.

Caliguiro said that seeing the children’s smiles while interacting with McGruff the Crime Prevention Dog was the highlight of the day.

“This is our sixth year doing this, and somebody likes us, because we’ve been very, very lucky,” said Councilman Gerald Drasheff at the event. “We’ve never had bad weather, and today it gorgeous.”

Parents, children get tips

Stephen Cowan, a resident of the Galaxy Apartments, said his family has been attending the event since son Jonah was born. Cowan found the day to not only be entertaining for their son, but a learning experience for adults.

“We went into the fire truck, and all the things that you don’t think about, they point out to you, and you’ve got to be conscious of these things,” said Cowan.

Cowan continued, “Simple things like [not] leaving the handles of pans pointing out. You’ve got to push them in, particularly when you have a small child. Even if you know about these things, it reinforces them and keeps it in your mind.”

Micaela Aguilera, who had just exited the smoke house, found the experience educational and a bit scary.

“You don’t know if it is real or if it’s fake,” Aguilera said. “For me, it was very informative.” Ivan Hecht, a teacher from the Anna L. Klein School, found the event to be an opportunity for children to interact with town officials. He said that they get to see that the Police Department genuinely cares for their safety and isn’t simply waiting for them to make a mistake.

Another Galaxy resident, Joanne Perratta, said the event had the perfect mixture of amusement rides, like a rock climbing wall and carousel, along with really good information.

“The kids get to see a fire truck up close and they have some really good information here,” Perratta said. “Stuff we need to know in the world today with bombs going off everywhere. We need to be prepared.”

Bringing the community together

Guttenberg Fire Official Al Salevesen said that along with the fire prevention literature, coloring books, and fire hats they were giving out, the day served another purpose.

“It brings the community together in a time when it’s a hassle,” said Salevesen. “No one has time to be together, and it brings the family together.”

Hecht, who lives in Lake Hopatcong, brought his son Joey so he could attend an event in the school district where he works. Hecht said that his former students were happy to finally meet his son.

“I want the kids to know that I really do care about them and that I’m not just collecting a paycheck,” said Hecht. “I want to get involved in their lives besides just educating them.”

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