Valparaiso, Ind., firefighter Scott Stafford (right) takes questions from Northview Elementary School first-graders during a fire safety presentation Nov. 28, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 10, 2013 6:13AM
First-graders at Northview Elementary School in Valparaiso got a lesson in fire safety — and goody bags complete with plastic firefighter’s helmets and toy firetrucks with lights and sirens — when five members of the Valparaiso Fire Department recently visited their classroom.
They knew a lot of the answers to questions posed to them by Capt. Jon Daley, including to call 911 if there was an emergency and to stop, drop and roll if their clothes caught on fire.
“You don’t want to run because that makes the fire get bigger,” Daly reminded them, and added they should cover their faces, too.
The 54 students learned during the Nov. 28 program that there should be smoke detectors on each level of their homes and, ideally, in their bedrooms, and that they should have two ways to get out of every room.
They also got a bit of homework for planning on what to do if they have to leave their homes because of a fire.
“Talk to your parents and brothers and sisters and anybody in your family so you’re all in the same spot,” Daly said, adding they should arrange to meet at a tree in the yard or at a neighbor’s house to make sure everyone was safe. He also emphasized that they should never stop to grab a coat or look for a pet on the way out, or go back into a burning house.
The students learned to crawl out of a smoke-filled building because that’s the safest way to get out, and they found out that’s how firefighters go into a building, too, to avoid the smoke, heat and toxic fumes a fire produces.
They also gave pointers to firefighter Scott Stafford as he put on his full protective gear, including his mask and oxygen tank, telling him to put his boots on first.
The goal of the program, Daly said, was to teach the students fire safety and to be comfortable around firefighters in full gear, which can be scary to kids in the chaos of a fire or car accident.
Local attorney Ken Allen sponsored the goody bags and the program, with the hope of expanding to other elementary schools and school corporations.
He wants the children to talk to their parents about fire safety — the bags included letters for parents — and make sure they have working smoke detectors at home.
“It’s going to save a life, and that’s really what it’s all about,” Allen said.