Vivacious fourth graders from Theodore Roosevelt School were happy to be out of the classroom last Monday, for a fire safety presentation given by the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue (NHRFR). The presentation coincided with National Fire Prevention week, a week of fire prevention education.
The NHRFR brought their Fire Prevention and Child Safety trailer to the school, which was donated three years ago by the New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs Association. The $40,000 trailer creates a mock household environment to teach children about fire hazards in the home.
Once inside, Captain James Donnelly, of the NHRFR, used the trailer’s oven, microwave, and electrical chords, to explain to students how ordinary household appliances can cause fires.
According to Captain Donnelly, the trailer gives children a better idea of how to react in a fire situation.
“People don’t think about what they’re going to do in a fire situation,” said Captain Donnelly. “[The trailer] gives us the opportunity to set up a mock room and to really make them think.”
After playing a smoke detector’s alarm, Captain Donnelly quizzed the children on what to do if they heard the alarm going off during the middle of the night.
Next, Captain Donnelly told the children to remind their parents to consistently change batteries in smoke detectors, saying that when the clocks are changed in the spring and fall, batteries in smoke detectors should be changed, too.
“Teaching children is good at an early age,” said Captain Riley of the NHRFR, “so the kids can inform their parents of any problems in the house. We want children to remain calm and learn what to do.”
After an interactive presentation with the firemen, the trailer was filled with fake smoke, and the children practiced crawling to the nearest exit to escape.
“The smoke makes it fun for the kids,” said Captain Donnelly, “but more importantly, kids remember better by doing something, instead of me just telling them.”
Although the fake smoke was completely harmless, Captain Donnelly said that the children realize they must stay low to the ground in order to escape.
According to Public Safety Director Jeff Welz, one of the most important things to remember in a fire is to stay low to the ground where “clean air” is still available.
“We’re hoping that a fun experience with fire safety in the trailer,” director Welz said, “will really stick in their minds.”
Fourth grade teacher Mrs. Aurora Hoover said that the presentation is not only informative, but the kids can build a relationship with local firefighters, too.
Through the program, “[the students] form a good connection with the fire department,” said Hoover. “They get to see the different fireman and feel confident going up to the fire station and asking a question or two.”
Fourth grader Kristian Guerra was happy to answer questions for the local news station. Kristian said, “My favorite part was learning that you should never play with fire, with matches, candles, and the oven when there is something in it.”
The Fire Prevention and Child Safety trailer will visit many local schools in Hudson County, including the Woodrow Wilson School in Weehawken on Oct. 23 at 10 a.m.
“If one kid gets away with something that saves his life one day,” Captain Donnelly said, “than [the program] is certainly worth it.”
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