October is Fire Safety Month

By at September 28, 2017 | 3:30 pm | Print

One of my favorite parts of being a parent is when my kids come home from school excited about what they had learned during the day. During October—fire safety month—the excitement level is usually off the charts after firefighters visit their school to conduct a fire safety public education program. The New Britain Fire Department (NBFD) has already scheduled visits to all of the elementary schools in the City, and we are ready to impart some knowledge that might someday save a life!

The NBFD’s fire safety public education program is customized by age group. Students in pre-K through first grade get a visit from a firefighter and Patches. Patches, a Dalmatian dog robot who drives around in a small fire truck, is always a favorite with the kids in this age group. Together, the firefighter and Patches teach some fire safety basics such as the nature of fire: fast, hot, dark and dangerous. Smoke alarm awareness is discussed along with the need to get outside and stay outside in the event of a fire. The children in this age group are asked to participate in practicing their stop, drop and roll technique as well as crawling low in smoke. Patches congratulates the students individually after they have demonstrated the proper form. In addition, firefighters emphasize that matches and lighters are not toys and should not be touched. The basics on calling 911 are also taught to this age group. These lessons are reinforced by handouts left with the classroom teacher along with plastic red fire hats that make the students honorary firefighters for doing a great job.

Second and third graders will receive a visit from a fire engine, and the firefighters on the engine will reinforce and elaborate on what the students had learned in the prior school year. For example, students are told that not only are they to get out and stay out in the event of a fire, but that they should encourage their family members to have a designated meeting spot. The firefighters will go over the equipment they use during emergencies and the protective gear they wear. The students are taught that despite looking frightening, a fully equipped firefighter is there to help and the students should not hide from them. Once again, calling 911 is discussed and at this age the students should know their address and family’s phone number. Questions are encouraged and age appropriate handouts are left with the teachers to reinforce the firefighters’ visit.

Students in the fourth and fifth grade will get the most hands on presentation which takes place in the NBFD’s Smoke Trailer. The Smoke Trailer contains a mock bedroom and a mock kitchen. Firefighters have the students identify potential fire hazards within the Smoke Trailer’s bedroom and kitchen. Once the fire hazards are identified, the students are asked the best way to eliminate these hazards. Furthermore, the students are encouraged to go home and identify and eliminate any fire hazards that may exist in their homes. Another fire safety component taught to fourth and fifth graders is “exit drills in the home” which is represented by the acronym E.D.I.T.H. This lesson includes having the students drawing a floor plan which identifies two ways out of every room, how to alert others that an emergency is taking place, and the family having a prearranged meeting place outside of the home. Students are asked to go home and practice these skills with the members of their household.

The lessons described in this article are just a small sampling of the knowledge that firefighters share with New Britain’s students, and acting Fire Chief Peter Margentino encourages everyone within New Britain to be a lifelong learner when it comes to fire safety information that could save a life. For example, the NBFD conducts fire safety presentations in senior housing, provides fire extinguisher training and makes members of the department available to assist residents with emergency planning specialized to homes. Chief Margentino emphasizes a “wide open door” policy when it comes to interaction between the NBFD and the residents that we proudly serve.

If you have children in the elementary schools and they come home super excited about the NBFD’s visit to their school, please take the time to go over the fire safety information they were given. I know they will be pleased to share it with you. In addition, as excited as the students are after a visit from the NBFD, I promise you that the firefighters that were there at their school are equally excited. It is an honor and a privilege to collaborate with the Consolidated School District of New Britain, and the NBFD thanks them for allowing us to spend some valuable time within their classrooms. Please contact the New Britain Fire Marshal’s Office at 860-826-4310 with any fire safety questions you may have.

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