To celebrate Fire Safety Month in October, the Fletcher Elementary School welcomed a special visit from the Cambridge Fire Department.
Three firefighters taught a series of 45-minute lessons on fire safety to each of Fletcher’s preschool through sixth-grade classes. The teaching included a review of the gear and equipment used by firefighters, strategies for staying safe in the event of a fire, and a tour of a real-life fire-rescue truck.
One of the department’s newest members, Rollie the robotic fire truck, was also a highlight. Rollie has the ability to move around, has flashing red lights, and can carry on a conversation with students via remote control. Behind the scenes, the voice of Rollie typically belongs to Firefighter Kristy Wyckoff, who answered students’ questions and posed thought-provoking scenarios that helped students plan for potential fire emergencies at home.
“I learned that firefighters use their air tanks to breath in clean air instead of smoke,” third-grader Stephen Duchaine said. “Their gear is used to protect themselves. It’s important that they come to school because they can teach us how to be safe.”
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there is an average of 1,500 home fires in the US every day, causing 6,500 deaths and 280,000 injuries annually. During the lifetime of an average home, chances are two to one that there will be an accidental fire.
Wyckoff and her fellow firefighters, Dave Fay and Elizabeth Rowe, encouraged students to install and maintain smoke detectors and to have a reunification plan outside the home in the event of a fire. While donning her gear, Rowe and her colleagues also reassured students that firefighters are there to help, and not to be afraid of all of the equipment.
“Our goal is to make learning about fire prevention fun and enjoyable for all involved. Safety is our number one priority, Wyckoff said.
“We had to practice our stop drop and roll,” first-grader Emily Savage said. “And we had to cover our faces to protect ourselves. You can crawl if there is a fire. You should stay low because the smoke rises up. You have to know what to do when you have a fire in your house.”
On average, eight out of ten fire-related deaths are the result of smoke inhalation, the NFPA report cites.
“I learned how firefighters put out fire, fourth-grader Cody Savage said. “Taking away the oxygen is one way and using water is another way. The equipment is super heavy. I learned to not hide anywhere and try to get out and not to be scared of the firefighters. There is a helping person under all of the equipment.”
According to a 2017 report authored by the Vermont State Fire Marshall, of the 40,000 emergencies to which firefighters responded that year, “residential properties account for the majority of structure fires and civilian fatalities.” The report also states that Vermont has historically had a higher than average fire fatality rate per capita. Nationwide, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that 25 percent of all structure fires are in residential construction and account for 83 percent of fire deaths and 77 percent of injuries.
“The more students practice safety routines, the more it will become second nature in the event of an actual emergency,” third-grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “We are fortunate that these volunteers give up their time every year to support the safety and wellbeing of our students.”
Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon