Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fire Safety Field Trip

A group of homeschoolers visited the Talleyville Fire House for a short course on fire safety. For some, this was their first trip, for others it was a refresher, having learned these lessons long in a trip years ago. As Fireman Farrel said, when a crisis, a fire happens, people will panic. The more review, the more prepared, the higher the likelihood that everyone will know just what to do in case of fire. I was worried at first that my kids were too young for this one. My reservations were unfounded. Yes, every pre-schooler has learned to not play with matches or lighters, to stop, drop and roll, not to hide if there is a fire and how to to recognize a fireman donning a full body uniform.

But how many of us have recently gone over what to do, what not to do and where to meet if those smoke alarms do go off in the middle of the night and the house is quickly filling with black and toxic smoke? What would you do if someone's clothes caught on fire? We all think we know. We do, when we are calm, when we have time to casually think about it. However, at my daughter's last birthday party, her dad was lighting the candles and suddenly flames started running up and down his sweater, in and out of the loosely woven fires. There was something highly flammable about that sweater. Fabric softener perhaps? So what did the two grandmothers standing there do? They panicked. They froze. They started shouting for water. I walked into the room to see what the commotion was about and grabbed a towel to smother the fire, on the sweater, still on my husband, who was not quite sure what was going on. But the flames I tried to smother would just disappear deeper into the sweater and travel to another spot. We did get that fire out, no burns on my husband, luckily. But not one of us remembered stop, drop and roll!

Did you know that you should not just stop, drop and roll but also cover your face? Fireman Farrel demonstrated with the help of Billie Rose (8), exactly how to do this. You drop to the floor, cover your face with your hands, then roll in one direction till you hit an obstacle then immediately roll in the opposite direction, continuing to roll numerous times to be sure that fire is out. Billie Rose plans to go over this drill with her dad, just in case, for the next time he is lighting her birthday cake!

This was not a field-trip about climbing on fire trucks or in the ambulance and looking at all the cool equipment. This was a serious and enlightening lesson for students and parents about fire safety and what to do and how not to panic if there is a fire in your home. Fireman Farrell was engaging, even the youngest did not lose interest. His message was delivered realistically, seriously but without creating any undo anxiety. In fact, just the opposite. If you and your family are prepared, if you know what to do, in all likely hood you will be fine.

A couple other notes to share: Most house fires these days are caused by unattended cooking fires and people smoking. With the increase of public awareness and more consistent use of smoke detectors, most calls to the fire house are security system false alarms. The majority of the real calls, because of the aging population in this area, are for ambulance service. And, interestingly, the woman's auxiliary to the fire department is disappearing, quickly becoming a thing of the past. Why? Because those woman, whom in previous generations joined the auxiliary to become involved with firefighting, are now become firefighters themselves. The gender barriers are gone. Fireman Farrell said that inch for inch his female colleagues are just as strong and able as he!

A field trip to the fire house is something Homeschoolers should really be sure to do, particularly in those very early years. Preschools through elementary schools schedule these trips or a visit from a fireman to the school, annually, ofthen through the 5th grade. You can contact Fireman Farrell if you are in New Castle County or just call your local fire station to schedule a group trip:

John H. Farrell IV
Public Information Officer
Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company
P.O. Box 148
Newark, Delaware 19715

His card reads: "SERVICE FOR OTHERS"