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Hot topic: Teaching kids fire prevention

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
October 14, 2007

Larry Hainstock held up a picture of Andy’s house.


“Who has a house similar to this?’’ asked the lead inspector for the Janesville Fire Department.


About 60 first-graders at Roosevelt Elementary School raised their hands.


Then Hainstock opened the first two pages of his storybook so the children could see Andy’s bedroom—complete with a bed, nightstand and toy box.


To discuss the difference between toys and tools, Hainstock let students take turns pulling items from the toy box.


As they pulled out the paper items—a stove, Ninja turtle, teddy bear, power saw, boat and a book of matches—they identified each as a toy or tool and whether they were safe to be in Andy’s room.


“We shouldn’t have that in the toy box unless it’s pretend,” one student said of the power saw.


“That’s right,” Hainstock agreed.


“Should we play with a stove?


“No,” the students answered in unison.


“Who can tell me what week this is?” Hainstock asked.


“Fire week,” one answered.


“Fire Prevention Week,” Hainstock clarified.


“There’s one more thing in Andy’s toy box,” Hainstock said.


It was a book of matches, Alex Peters discovered.


“Ooooohhhhhhh,” the students sighed, immediately recognizing the danger.


“What happens if you play with matches?” Hainstock said.


“It causes fire,” one boy said.


“Andy forgot to give the matches to his parents. So he started playing with them, and guess what happened,” Hainstock said.


“There was a fire,” he added.


“That really happen?” a boy asked.


“See Andy’s bedroom now?” Hainstock said, as he turned the page and showed them nothing but gray and a bag full of ashes.


“That’s all that’s left of his toy box now because he forgot the message of playing with toys and not tools,” Hainstock said.


“So if you’re out playing at school and you find matches or a lighter what should you do with them? Give them to the teacher. Or if you’re not sure what it is, make sure you tell an adult. But never play with anything that could be dangerous,’’ he added.


Hainstock reminded kids to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch on fire.


“If a fire has air on it, it will get bigger. So you never want to run, even though it’s hard not to when you’re scared,” Hainstock said.


Hainstock talked about how to call 911 in an emergency and the importance of memorizing home phone numbers, plus creating an exit plan similar to the monthly school fire drills and establishing a meeting place.


“It’s all about how to be safe in a fire,” Hainstock said.


Teacher Hope Langston agreed.


“All children need the basic rules of fire safety,” she said.


“That why during fire safety week we ask someone from the fire department to come in.”


Fire prevention tips


-- Install smoke alarms on every floor and in every sleeping area.


-- Test smoke alarms at least once a month.


-- Replace smoke alarm batteries at least once a year.


-- Replace any smoke alarm more than 10 years old.


-- Never disable a smoke alarm even if you experience “nuisance” alarms while cooking or showering.


-- Make a fire escape plan and practice it at least every six months with your family, baby-sitters and older family members.


-- Hold a fire drill during the night to assess if smoke alarms are loud enough to wake children.


-- Make sure fire extinguishers are fully charged.


-- Keep the stovetop clean and free of clutter.


-- Place space heaters at least 3 feet from walls and anything else that can burn.


-- If you have a fireplace, use a screen to catch sparks and have the chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year.


-- Encourage smokers to smoke outside.


-- Keep matches and lighters locked in a high cupboard, out of sight and reach of children.


-- Store paint, gasoline, and other flammable liquids outside and away from flames and sparks.


Source: Janesville Fire Department



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