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Real-World Fire Safety Education

April 29, 2011

Every spring, the Prevention Division heads out to the elementary schools and teaches fire safety to third graders.  Over two weeks, we talk with 650 kids in 13 different schools.  This talk is different from our other presentations.  This one is hands-on.

Years ago the Inland Empire Fire Chiefs purchased a fire safety trailer for hands-on instruction in surviving home fires.  The entire trailer is designed around what we know about fires in America.  It has the three most dangerous rooms in the house:  kitchen, living room and bedroom.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that most home fires start in the kitchen.  Also, most fires that cause injury start in the kitchen.  Our safety trailer kitchen is designed with the standard hazards in place:  cooking, combustible items on or too near the stove, electrical cords around the sink, and pot handles sticking out from the stove top.  Kids are asked to identify the hazards and correct them on their own.  Then we discuss the hazards, consequences and mitigations.

Next we move them to the living room.  NFPA statistics tell us this is where most fatal fires originate.  We examine the fire place, smoking hazards, matches and lighters, and candles.  We also discuss the role smoke detectors play in early warning as well as how to test and maintain smoke detectors.

Finally we take them to a mocked up bedroom.  National statistics show that this is where most home fire fatalities occur.  Kids are taught that because smoke tends to rise, they need to get low when the smoke detector sounds.  Next they need to get out.  We advocate sleeping with the bedroom door closed to buy occupants time so kids are taught to check the door prior to opening it.  If the door is hot, they must use a second exit.  Once outside they join their family at a safe meeting place and never re-enter the building (chances of surviving a re-entry are extremely slim).

Then we run a test.  A Hollywood smoke machine pumps smoke into the room and a smoke detector starts squealing.  The kids must get to the floor and head for an exit.  The bedroom door is heated so when they check, they realize that door is not an option.  A bedroom window is opened and they climb out to safety and perform a head-check at the safe meeting place to ensure everyone got out OK.

As always, it’s difficult to tell how many fires have not occurred due to training like this.  Nor can we calculate how many lives have not been lost because someone underwent real-world hands-on training such as this.  We do see cases, however, where kids have remembered what they learned in this trailer and applied it at home.

So if you see a large trailer and a fire engine parked at a school this week, it’s our troops out teaching the kids, and showing them, how to survive a residential structure fire.

If you’re interested in other public education functions, please give me a call at 466-4602 or e-mail me at dbleeker@scfd9.org (or leave a post here).  We offer an array of public education services and even tailor presentations to different groups.

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From → Public Education

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