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More to Walker County Schools fire safety training effort than ‘stop, drop and roll’

Capt. Traci Napier Reece of Walker County Emergency Services has taken fire safety training to a new level at Rock Spring Elementary School. Because the program has been so well received, it may be taught this spring at Gilbert Elementary School in LaFayette.

Rather than have a firefighter visit once during Fire Prevention Week in early October, all Rock Spring kindergartners and fourth-graders participate in a six-week program taught by Reece. Not only do students learn how to “Stop, drop and roll,” they learn the essentials of fire prevention and safety in their home.

“We use age-appropriate material,” Reece said.

Students have opportunities to familiarize themselves with fire trucks and what firefighters wear — helmets, masks, air packs and turnout gear — so they will be less frightened in the event of a fire.

What makes this program unique is that classroom instruction extends the learning opportunities for the selected grades.

“They thoroughly enjoy it,” principal Kathy Gilstrap said.

The workbook for younger children is an activity book that helps convey the message of prevention and safety. In one exercise, kids use crayons — red for hot, blue for not — to mark things that could burn or cause fires in their homes.

Older students have workbooks more like a textbook, with written copy, pictures and quizzes.

Recently, months after the lessons taught in the fall, fourth-graders in Ralph Keith’s math and science class were excited to show how much they had learned. Hands shot into the air as classmates vied to be called on to answer rapid-fire questions related to fire prevention and fire safety.

Seemingly, the entire class remembered that the role of a firefighter is “to save lives and protect property.”

Boys and girls alike knew that if a smoke detector sounds they should not hop out of bed and run from their room, but instead should “stay low, check the door for heat and then go outside.”

The students knew that if calling 911 they should try to stay calm, speak clearly and tell “who we are, where we are and what is going on.”

While Reece said she was pleased with how much they knew in the classroom, that they take that knowledge home and share it with their family was equally — if not more — important.

“Parental involvement is an important part of the program,” she said.

The class could explain the importance of working with their family to draw an escape plan for their own house and agreeing on a safe place to gather outside the home.

The youngsters knew why it is important to have fire extinguishers and how to use them, and they were quick to tell how and how often to test smoke detectors.

And though they are elementary school students, these children described how they have applied their classwork to their everyday lives.

Three girls — MacKenzie Fitzgerald, Miah Lee and Anika Shah — told how their mothers or sisters had burned themselves while cooking, either taking things from the oven, making hot chocolate or preparing rice on the stovetop. In each instance, the girls said they had helped by treating the burns with cold water or ice.

Jacob Waller and Avery Sullivan explained how they have planned what to do if there is a fire at either of their homes. Jacob described how he practices crawling from his playroom to the front door; Avery said his plan includes waking a younger brother and making certain they both escape.

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