For the Great Bend Fire/EMS Department, teaching fire safety begins at a young age, and Fire Prevention Week is an ideal opportunity to begin that process.
Fire Prevention Week is recognized the first full week of October each year to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8-10, 1871, said Great Bend Fire/EMS Department Capt. Mark Pohlman. Traditionally, GBFD firefighters take that week to make the rounds to Great Bend preschools and grade schools to teach fire safety in a hands-on way.
Though many of the grades will be learning fire safety via video this year, GBFD is still making the rounds with Sparky the Fire Dog to teach fire safety at local schools, visiting each preschool and elementary school between Oct. 5 and Oct. 15.
Great Bend firefighter Kaleb Karnosky believes educating young people on fire safety is an important part of their jobs.
“If we get to these kids at a young age, they learn that the fire department, when they show up, it’s a good thing (and) we’re there to help,” Karnosky said, noting that for a young child, a firefighter showing up in full gear at their house can seem intimidating.
“We have Fire Safety Week so we can talk about what to do if there is a fire in your house,” Pohlman told students at Park Elementary School Wednesday morning.
In their presentation, one of the first things the firefighters stressed to the students is the importance of having a working smoke detector in the home, and educating the kids on how a smoke detector works.
“(A smoke detector is) very valuable in your home, because it will smell smoke,” Pohlman said. “It’s like a big nose, and when it smells smoke it makes an alert.”
Pohlman told the students it’s important for them to know how it works, and to be an active part of the fire safety plan in their homes.
When they hear the alert from the smoke detector, Pohlman told the students, they need to know how to get out of their homes safely. He told them to have multiple routes out of the house in case of a fire, and made sure the kids knew what those routes were.
Knowing those routes, practicing them, and having a family plan in a fire, he told the students, is a crucial part of fire safety. He said having fire drills at home is important part of safety in a fire.
Along those lines, Karnosky said, parents are important cogs in the fire safety education process.
“The biggest thing (for parents) is just have an open dialogue with them,” Karnosky said. “Explain to them what kinds of things can happen, what to do if certain things happen, so that way if it does, they’re more comfortable.”
Pohlman said kids should have their parents help them know how to get out, and how to open windows, in the case of a fire.
The firefighters also stressed the importance of knowing what number to call in an emergency, as well as knowing their address so they can tell firefighters where to come.
Sparky also helped teach the kids fire safety by demonstrating the “stop, drop, and roll” process if they catch fire, while Karnosky showed the kindergarten students how to stay low in a fire as smoke rises to stay below the smoke.
Along with knowing how to practice fire safety, firefighters also gave the students a firsthand look at the gear firefighters wear in a fire, including a demonstration of how a firefighter puts on their gear. They also showed students some of the equipment firefighters carry on their trucks to fight fires.
“Hopefully you remember all these fire safety tips, but you have to practice them with your mom and dad,” Pohlman said. “Make sure you know what to do (in a fire).”