Breakfast at the firehouse

Firefighters recognize winning students' fire escape plans
Nov. 22, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

This week nine kindergartners, first and second graders were treated to breakfast by Forest City firefighters and driven to school on a fire truck, complete with all the bells and whistles.

In recognition of their winning fire escape plans, Forrest Hunt Elementary School students Sixx Brown, Taylor Mullinax and Destinee Hines, Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School students Derek Arbaiza, Luke Young and Cindy Rubio-Malo, and Thomas Jefferson Grammar School students Alton Freeman, Karsyn Huskey and Addison Lane got to enjoy a morning at the Forest City Fire Department hanging out with firefighters and learning about fire safety.

"For the fire escape plan contest winners, the firefighters cook breakfast for them, their parents and siblings. The fire chief also presents the students with a Forest City Fire Department T-shirt, an award ribbon and a bag full of fire-themed gifts including stickers, coloring books, trinkets and a fire safety DVD," said Forest City Fire Marshal Tommy Harmon.

Forest City firefighters present their fire safety program each year to the three elementary schools, located within city limits. The safety program consists of a skit, a chance for students to walk through the firefighters' smoke house and a fire escape plan contest.

The contest requires students to draw a floor plan of their home, label the rooms, indicate windows and doors and finally mark two exit routes out of each room to the exterior. Students are asked to mark two ways out of each room in the event that one of the exits is blocked.

"If you go to a hospital, school or business and they have the escape plan posted by the doors, this is very similar to that — the kids are just making escape plans for their homes," Harmon said.

Another requirement of the contest is for students to identify a safe family meeting place outside of the home.

"We talk to students about the importance of a family meeting place outdoors so when the fire department arrives, the family can tell them whether or not everyone is out of the house," Harmon said. "We also tell students to pick a safe meeting place. It shouldn't be in the roadway or under power lines."

While having a fire escape plan is important in the event of a fire, Forest City firefighters talk with students about additional fire safety measures. These include having a working smoke detector, not playing with matches or items that could potentially start a fire, ways to safely exit a smoke-filled or burning building, how to dial 911 for emergency help and finally how to stop, drop and roll.

After speaking with the winning students over breakfast, firefighters loaded them into a fire truck and delivered them to their schools.

"Without the kids knowing, we call their schools ahead of time and ask their teachers and classmates to come outside to greet them," Harmon said. "We show up with flashing lights and blaring sirens. It's pretty exciting and a big deal for those kids."

Harmon said that while the fire escape plan contest, breakfast at the firehouse and fire truck ride are great for the kids, the firefighters' main goal is fire safety education.

"The purpose is to get the kids to go home and to get their mom and dad to help with the escape plan, and to talk with them about all the things they learned through the fire safety program at school," Harmon said. "We essentially use the kids to further educate the parents. And you would not believe the response we get — kids take their plans home and we hear from parents about how much their kids have learned."