Checking out fire trucks and getting to sit in the driver’s seat of a police SUV is exciting for first graders — and it’s also a perfect way to teach them about safety. During a recent visit to the Plainfield Township Fire Station, East Oakview Elementary first graders got to do the fun stuff and heard about important safety information as part of a Fire Safety Month activity.
Fire escape plans, smoke alarms, crossing streets, where to walk when getting on a bus and more were some of the topics covered by a firefighter, policeman and bus driver. “We learned about having smoke alarms in our bedroom and in the living room,” said first-grader Celia Sutton. The tour was sponsored by the Northview Children Awareness Rescue and Reaction Emergency Safety organization.
Introducing the ‘Beep….Beep…Beep’
The topic of fire safety – the blaring sound of a smoke alarm alone – can be scary for children, but, according to firefighter Michael McLeieer, president of ESCAPE Fire & Safety, introducing children to a fire-safety plan and the beep of the device can reduce anxiety and fear.
McLeieer, who is also a certified national fire instructor, offered these tips for introducing the sound of a smoke alarm:
- Talk about fire safety with your children at home, where they feel secure. It’s never too early to begin discussions about who firefighters are, what a family escape map is, and how and when to go to a neighbor’s house during a fire or smoke emergency.
- To familiarize a child with the sound of the alarm, place a pillow over the device, or place duct tape or electrical tape over the horn of a smoke alarm to muffle the sound. Press the test button to activate the alarm and introduce the softer sound to the child.
- Once the child is comfortable with the softer sound of the smoke alarm, remove the pillow or tape and allow him or her to hear the actual sound.
- Practice home fire drills on a regular basis (during the day and night). This can decrease anxiety and allow children to respond calmly.
- During fire drills, practice leaving the house from different rooms so children get used to doing so.
- If your child’s fear about the smoke alarm continues, especially when it’s activated in school, have a short meeting with your child’s teacher to explain the issue. The teacher may be able to devote extra class time to discussions about what happens during a fire drill.