Athens Review, Athens, Texas

October 10, 2012

Fire Prevention Month to educate about the dangers of fire

Art Lawler
The Athens Review

Athens — Get ready mom and dad. This year's theme for National Fire Safety Month in Athens is, “Make sure you have two ways out of the home.”

Don't worry about memorizing it. By the time Athens  Fire Marshall Ronnie Denton, and members of the Athens Fire Department get through drilling that information into your kids, they'll be making sure it sinks into mom and dad's much slower minds, as well.

But pay attention. It could mean the difference between life and tragedy when you're least expecting it.

“We try to take the whole month of October to stress fire safety,” Denton said.

With that in mind, the firefighters will be bringing out the shiny, new ladder truck for the kids to look at, and even sit inside. They'll bring heavy extraction equipment, firefighting suits and pants, and anything else the kids might want to get their mitts on.

On top of that, if they can get your kid off the fire truck, they'll be bringing  Sparky, the firehouse “dalmation” imposter, along with them. (In real life he's a real life firefighter named Randall Morris). But even a close look won't reveal the identity of this firefighter clothed in kid-friendly dog wear .

Between having fun and learning, the firefighters will try to impress upon the kids how important it is to have a plan, and that's why they're emphasizing the importance of having two ways out of the house.

“Basically, we want to tell the kids, make sure you have two ways out of the home,” Denton said. “It may be a door and a window.”

The firefighters wll be emphasizing the importance of having a window a child can master quickly if he, or she, needs to escape.

House fires don't just happen every few years. Firefighters have been especially busy putting out structure fires all over the county this year.

The next thing they'll want to tell your child is to get out of the house as quickly as possible, and once they're out, to stay out, no matter what.

The kids can expect to see the shiny, new ladder truck pull up to their  schools, mostly on Fridays, between 8 a.m and 3 p.m.

“Normally, we talk to them in the gym about fire safety, and then we move outside,” Denton said. “We let them get the rescue tools for rescues, and to hold them so they can see how heavy it is,” Denton said.

When they're in the building talking to the kids, they'll have one of the firefighters walk in, so the kids can see he's not a monster.

“He'll gradually put on pants, and talk abut how the pants and the coats protect us. The kids will know his first name, and know that he's not a monster,  that he's there to help them. We'll teach them never to run away from the firefighters, letting them know he's there to help them.

After the gradual buildup, this man they know by first name, will put on the headgear and goggles and oxygen mask. 

“A lot of times, small kids are scared by the suit, so we build up gradually with a firefighter they know by name.

The kids will also be taught to pay attention to the chirping sounds of their fire alarms, warning their parents that the battery on the alarm is getting low.

They'll be stressing to the kids once again to stay very low when they see smoke. If they get to a door, and put their hand on it, and it's warm, they teach them to get away from it, and go out another direction.

For that reason, Denton said, the kids will be told to always keep their door shut at  night.

“You would be surprised how long you can keep a fire on the other side of the door, if it's closed,” he said.

So parents who haven't been paying attention can expect to be pestered into home safety by their children.

After all, somebody's got to do it.

 Fire Prevention Week is actually from Oct. 7 to Oct. 13, but Denton says they want to make it a month-long effort, to help bring about awareness to both children and adults.