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Elementary students learn the ABCs of fire safety

Angela Cooper-McCorkle photo

Students in Alicia Mohler’s split first and second grade class look toward a window as Fire District 7’s Heather Chadwick tells them to climb out their first-story window in a fire if other exits are unsafe. If they’re on the second or third floor they should open the window, throw out a blanket or stuffed animal and scream for help.

SNOHOMISH — Maltby Elementary students learned how to survive and prevent emergencies from a special guest for Fire Prevention Month.
Little hands shot up in the air as Fire District 7’s education officer Heather Chadwick asked eager second graders if they could dial 911 in an emergency.
Chadwick walked the class through the five steps to mastering how to call 911. At that age, she could not take for granted that the children had their addresses memorized or would know to stay on the line after giving them.
Today’s second graders also faced challenges their parents didn’t. Many homes don’t have land lines meaning a child needs to know where to find a telephone and which phone number to give emergency dispatchers.
Along with calling 911, Chadwick focused on staying safe during a nighttime fire. “If we’re snoring and sleeping and dreaming of unicorns,” and we get woken by the fire alarm “do we go crazy or do we stay calm,” she asked.
The answer is to stay calm. She taught children to stay low and check their door for heat with the back of their hand. If the door was hot, they were to block the crack with a blanket, open their window, throw out a stuffed animal or blanket to alert firefighters, and “scream and shout.”
A photo of two adjacent bedrooms, one with an open door, fire-ravaged, the other with a closed door, completely intact, illustrated her message.
The easy to digest lessons underscored a frightening reality: 42 Washingtonians have died this year as of Oct. 15 in residential fires including at least five children according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Of the 364,300 residential fires nationally in 2016, half began in the kitchen.
Second-grader Tucker Price remembered his own kitchen fire, which began with a pan on the stove, but that thanks to his family’s quick thinking, everyone got out safely.
Chadwick, a former teacher, gave the students homework, too: to write down their address and phone numbers on the fridge, but with the warning that if a fire made the fridge too hard to reach, to just run outside and do their best from there.
For youth, whose ability to judge risk is still underdeveloped, those lessons were critical. In a presentation to a fourth grade class on household hazards, two boys proved the point.
The students were given laminated sheets, each one showing a different room of a home full of hazards. In a kitchen scene, a spill, dangling electrical cords and knives left on counters were all flagged by the kids. But when asked about the stove, where two handles extended out into a walkway, the boys instead predicted that the hazard might be the stove would blow up if it got too hot.
“There’s so many hazards!” fourth-grader Porter Douglas summed up.
The presentation led to a realization for one fourth-grade girl who resolved never to leave her craft scissors on the bed again because her dog liked to jump up there to sleep.
The learning didn’t stop when Chadwick left: teachers continued to focus on home safety plans and sent worksheets home to solidify the life-saving lessons.
The fire district goes into every kindergarten and second grade classroom in the Monroe School District each year. By presenting to children every other year, Chadwick said, they make the best of limited resources. This year, the program expanded to fourth grade.
Fire Prevention Week is a nearly century-old effort to provide focused lifesaving training to civilians. The event became an official national observance in 1925 through a proclamation by President Calvin Coolidge.
Entertaining and educational resources to teach children fire safety are available at the National Fire Protection Association children’s site,


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