Stop, Drop and Roll. . .Fire Prevention week focuses on safety

7 Oct 2007 | Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Young

On Oct. 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire raged for two days destroying nearly 17,000 buildings and claiming more than 250 lives. Now each October the National Fire Protection Association sponsors Fire Prevention Week to educate people about fire safety and fire prevention.

Air Station firefighters rolled out their fire trucks and gear to Laurel Bay schools throughout the week discussing fire safety with students.

“The theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week is ‘practice your escape plan,’” said James Botelle, a fire inspector with the Air Station Structural Fire and Emergency Services Department. “Only 23 percent of homes have a fire escape plan due to complacency in the household.”

The children at each school got the chance to interact with firefighters, their gear and the vehicles they use. The children also got the chance to crawl through pop-up tunnels, learn how to design escape routes and take part in a fire drill, Botelle said.

“What we are teaching here will save lives in a fire and that’s what we’re here for,” said Raymond Barnard, an Air Station firefighter.

During the firefighters’ visit, the students were taught that each home needs two escape routes, as well as a designated meeting area, located a safe distance from the home.

“Households that implement an escape route and meeting area during a fire emergency help firefighters focus on putting the fire out and not rescuing trapped people,” Botelle said.

The Air Station fire department mostly focused their efforts toward educating children with the hopes that they bring the information home to their families. Pamphlets regarding fire safety information were also made available in areas of high pedestrian traffic on Laurel Bay and the Air Station, Botelle said.

“We can sit in a classroom and tell kids what to do in a fire all day, but practicing the basics in a drill reinforces everything,” said Frank Juarez, a substitute teacher at Bolden Elementary School.

In addition to the learning experience for the children and teachers, firefighters were given the chance to train by performing a rescue operation during a planned fire drill, said Joseph Otterbine, a fire inspector with the fire department.

“The firefighters held children back during the drill, simulating a missing child,” said Jacque Taton, the principal at Bolden.

Practicing scenarios such as a child trapped in a fire makes both the teachers and firefighters stay alert and ensure accountability, Botelle said.

Learning about fire safety and prevention should not end at the close of Fire Prevention Week, Botelle said. Practicing safety from fire’s destructive force should continue year-round and be a part of everyone’s daily life.

For more information about Fire Prevention Week or fire safety in and outside of the home, contact the Air Station Fire Prevention Department at 228-7854.