Community leaders keeping students safe

Paying attention to officer talking about safety rules
Kyle Trask ready with an answer

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.

Cam McCullough’s showing off his safety class work before the trip

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.
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio

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