Calais Elementary Students Engage in Fire Prevention Week

Station Captain Bill Lee led the students through several safety drills, including how to properly stop, drop and roll – which always involves covering the face with the hands. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

Every year, the Calais Fire-EMS Department conducts Fire Prevention Week, consisting of a week of activities aimed at the youngest students at Calais Elementary School to encourage them to adopt safe practices and be prepared in the event of a fire. As part of the activities, the students are brought to the fire station, where they are invited to explore various elements of firefighting.

While the students were learning important safety measures, they were also having a great deal of fun. They shot a firehose, felt the weight of a fireman’s jacket and got in the cab of the firetruck and blew its horn. Since Calais’s fire department is also its municipal EMS, the students had the opportunity to explore the back of an ambulance and utilize some of the equipment that paramedics and emergency personnel employ to treat and transport individuals in need.

The students learned how to safely leave a room when a fire alarm goes off, including testing the door with the back of the hand to determine if it is hot. Once determining it wasn’t, they opened the door and kept low to the ground to stay underneath the smoke, following the hallway to the exit where they gathered at the pre-determined safe point.

If they were hypothetically in an unfamiliar building, as Station Captain Bill Lee instructed the students, the best way to find the way out is to find a wall and follow it until reaching a door. “If you do that and you find a closet, are you going to stay in the closet?” Lee quizzed his charges. The correct response is ‘no!’ – keep going until finding an exit.

One of the longest standing pieces of advice for people who are on fire is to “stop, drop, and roll” until the flames are quenched. Lee ensured that the children each had a good understanding of the technique – which includes covering the face with one’s hands.

Lee instructed the children to always tell a parent if they find a lighter or a match and not to play with it. “One little match can burn down your house,” he said. When a student pointed out that metal toys wouldn’t catch on fire and thus should be safe even during a fire, Lee advised that even metal toys will melt.

Part of the day’s goals included increasing the children’s comfort levels with authority figures and people in strange outfits like those that firefighters don. Lee put on the ventilation mask that enables firefighters to see and breathe safely in challenging conditions. “It looks scary, but don’t be scared, because the guy or the girl wearing it is coming to help you.”

Firefighters need their own fair share of safety tools, and Lee demonstrated several to the attentive children. One of them is the signal for “firefighter down,” prompted by a device that emits an increasingly loud signal to alert those nearby that a firefighter is in trouble. “When you’re at home, you yell, ‘Mom! Dad!’ I press this button and it’s like, ‘Chief! I’m scared!’” Lee said, rendering the voices with a comedic pitch that the students clearly enjoyed.

“We’ve got all kinds of safety, and that’s why we’re having Fire Prevention Week – because we want you to be safe, too,” Lee summarized.

Firefighter Billy Pulk was in charge of showing the students around the firetrucks and letting them shoot the firehose, sending a large spray of water across the parking lot. Pulk assigned the students “homework” to make sure that their house number was visible from the road as soon as they got home.

 

“We place emphasis on fire safety during Fire Prevention Week but would like people to practice fire safety all year long,” said Fire-EMS Chief Ken Clark. “Please, everybody, remember to test your smoke detectors every month.”