Fired up about fire safety
By Dart Spiers
Pearl River County preschoolers are getting some hands-on education in fire safety from local firefighters as part of this year’s Fire Prevention Month.
Carriere Fire Department firefighters visited with the children of the Wee Wisdom Learning Center to help teach the kids proper safety procedures in case of a house fire. The local fire departments do this every October during Fire Prevention Month to help familiarize kids with what they might encounter in an emergency situation.
Captain Jason Bannister said they were there to show kids that having functioning smoke detectors and a prepared fire escape plan are important, but also added that getting children comfortable with the sights and sounds of a fully uniformed firefighter can be lifesaving knowledge.
Bannister had a firefighter dress in full uniform, complete with the helmet and breathing apparatus, and then let the students approach and interact with him.
Jake Smith, a firefighter at Central Fire Station in Picayune, put on a similar demonstration for the children of Kid’s Korner Learning Center.
Smith said that a lot of times the children get scared when a firefighter enters their home in full uniform because they think a monster or burglar is coming to get them. Amidst all the smoke and confusion, a child might run and hide underneath their bed or in a closet, making it harder to find them and wasting what could be precious seconds in a burning building.
This is why the demonstration included the firefighter putting his gear on slowly, letting the kids identify each item he was wearing so they could see he is just a man with a costume on and not some scary monster. Smith stressed to the children who were gathered around the fully suited firefighter that there was nothing to fear and encouraged them to come close to give him high-fives and hugs.
A quick glance at the statistics shows why these demonstrations are so important to our community. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, “Mississippi has one of the highest fire mortality rates in the nation,” and lists older citizens and young children as two of the groups with the highest risk. The National Fire Protection Agency claims that a home structure fire was reported once every 85 seconds in 2013, leading to the deaths of 2,855 people and more than 14,000 injuries.
While it is a serious matter, the firefighters managed to work some fun into their demonstration. The kids climbed in and out of the fire truck, posed for pictures with Sparky the Fire Dog, the fire department mascot, and even got to knock over water bottles in the street with a charged fire hose.
Assistant Director of the Wee Wisdom Learn Center Melanie Kawafha hopes that this is information none of her 72 kids will ever have to use, but is also happy that local fire departments are making an effort to familiarize young children with what the “good guys” will look like when they come to help.