Rockford — The next time kindergartner Cora Twyman sees a fire truck in a parade, she’ll know that it is more than just a big truck with a loud horn. She’ll be able to spot its ladder and fire hose and know, from firsthand experience, how heavy that hose is. And most importantly, she’ll have a better understanding of what firefighters do to keep people safe.
“I think it was cool to see them (up close),” said Cora after her tour of a fire truck. “I learned to not breathe in the smoke, because then you’ll choke.”
For Fire Prevention Week, Cora and the rest of the kindergartners at Lakes Elementary School enjoyed a visit from Lt. Matt Alles and firefighter Ed Lockhart of the nearby Cannon Township Fire Department. After a lesson on fire safety basics and the safety gear that each firefighter wears, Alles gave them a tour of the truck, both inside and out, to explain what each part does to help them fight fires.
Later, in what was a highlight for many, the students got to team up with Lockhart to actually hold and spray the fire hose.
“We do this so that kids know what to do in an emergency, and also so that they are familiar with firefighters and not afraid of them,” said kindergarten teacher Katie Kraft. “We worry that, if there were a fire in their home, the kids might hide under a bed or in a closet. And if a firefighter finds them hiding, we don’t want them to be frightened. So they put on all of their gear to show them that there are actual friendly, safe people under all of that gear and they’re here to help.”
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Fire Safety Homework
To prepare for the visit, each class watched a video provided by Cannon Township on safety concepts like “stop, drop and roll” (how to extinguish a fire on clothing) and “get low, get out, stay out” (the importance of staying low to the ground to avoid smoke and get out of the house safely and quickly).
Kraft and her fellow teachers also sent students home with some important homework, like learning their address, knowing their full name and, with their families, establishing a meeting spot in front of their house for family members to gather in case of a fire or other emergency.
“We’re really trying to bridge that gap from home to school, because a lot of times parents don’t think of things like little kids needing to know their address or safe ways to get out of a home,” Kraft said. “This gives them some action items to help keep everyone safe.”
One of Kraft’s students declared the experience “the best day ever!” which made Alles smile.
“The kids are absolutely the best part of doing this,” said Alles, who has been teaching fire prevention for Cannon Township for five years. “We know they love spraying the hose — that’s the highlight — but it’s also so important to educate them on the benefits of fire safety. The leading cause of house fires is children playing with matches and lighters, which is why we do this and why we want them to understand the concept of not playing with hot things.”