The drill to survive

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Thursday, May 15, 2008
— Half the third-graders crawled the wrong way.

Even though they had just walked in through the bedroom door, lots of kids crawled to the closet in an attempt to escape the “burning” house.

Even after firefighters and teachers told kids how to roll out of bed and crawl to the door, many kids stood up—right into the imaginary deadly smoke—and wondered what to do.

Granted, the third-graders from Janesville’s Jefferson Elementary were disoriented in the dimly lit bedroom and the “smoky” living room of the Stateline Survive Alive House, 911 Newark Road, Beloit.

But that can happen in any room in any situation—a point that became clear when Larry Hainstock, Janesville Fire Department lead inspector, told kids to pretend they were having a slumber party before they tried to escape from the room.

Even in a child’s familiar home, it’s good to hold fire drills monthly, Hainstock said. Schools are required by law to hold monthly drills, although many more people die in house fires than fires in schools, he said.

“We (families) must continue to practice to make sure we have a consistent evacuation plan and to make sure we have that ingrained so it becomes second nature,” Hainstock said. “Always, as children, we are looking towards our guardians and adult mentors to make sure we’re safe.”

Wednesday was the first fire safety training session by the Janesville Fire Department with Janesville students since Saturday’s fatal fire that claimed the life of one child and seriously injured another.

Derek R.J. Mattingly, 7, was killed Saturday morning in the fire at 327 N. Palm St., Janesville. His little brother, Joey Ashmore, 2, is in critical condition at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, according to a family friend.

Hainstock told The Janesville Gazette earlier this week the fire was accidentally started by the boys’ brother, Owen A.P. Ashmore, 4.

The fatal fire has been “hard on everyone,” Hainstock told a Gazette reporter Wednesday, referring to the department and the Janesville community.

But Hainstock said he didn’t treat Wednesday’s training any differently than the twice-monthly training he conducts. The department invites all Janesville third-grade public and parochial classes to attend trainings, Hainstock said.

Not every school participates, he said.

During the field trip, children watch a movie about fire safety, practice two escape drills, work in a workbook and talk to firefighters about fires and fire safety.

Jefferson third-grade teacher Jennifer Fanning said fire safety training is “huge” in third grade, but Wednesday’s drills were just an “introduction.”

Students will be assigned homework to talk about fire safety with their families, Fanning said.

Last updated: 9:09 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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