Kindergarten students at Solon Springs School were given an unusual piece of homework Wednedsay.
“When you get home tonight, and you go in the living room, lay down and start rolling around,” said Solon Springs Fire Chief John Walt. If their parents or grandparents ask what they’re doing, the chief had an answer.
“Say ‘I learned that from Chief Walt today, stop, drop and roll,’” Walt said.
Every year as part of National Fire Prevention Week, the Solon Springs Volunteer Fire Department offers fire safety education for the students. This year, the focus was on smoke alarms. Lack of working smoke alarms is something Walt has seen too often in his 25 years of fighting fires.
“I see smoke alarms that don’t work or don’t have batteries in them,” Walt said. “I’ve gone into houses totally in flames inside and the alarm’s not going off.”
It’s important to have them in every room of the house, he said. It’s equally important to make sure they work. Tami Long, an emergency medical technician with the department, suggested replacing batteries every time you reset clocks for daylight savings time.
This year’s fire prevention event included a chance to see firefighter Chad Spinner in full turnout gear, a tour of a fire truck and a trip through the smoke house. Assistant Fire Chief Jonathon Brostowitz talked the students through what to do if there’s a fire. Stay low and check the door with the back of your hand to see if it’s hot, he said.
“And if it’s really hot you should go to the window, open it, and if you have a screen try to push it out and jump out,” said third grader Evan Gerlich.
What if you can’t get out, Brostowitz asked.
“Then you just stay in your room until the firefighters come and get you,” said third grader Abe Ahlberg.
Dani Miller, 911 supervisor for Douglas County, talked to the students about when to call 911.
“Don’t call 911 unless there’s an emergency,” said Reid Sather, a third grader.
Never practice calling 911 on an active phone, Miller told the students.
“Don’t call 911 just for fun,” said third grader Aubrey Swanson.
But if you do, Miller said, stay on the line and let the dispatcher know it was an accident.
Every year the volunteer firefighters mix something new into the program. Last year, students traveled to the fire hall for a tour. Walt thanked the Superior Fire Department for allowing them to use the fire house this year. In addition to repeating safety messages, the program gave students the chance to meet firefighters in person.
“Yesterday we talked about what we want to be when we grow up,” said Anna Warring, a preschool and kindergarten teacher. “And a lot of them wanted to be firefighters.”
Often, firefighters appear on the scene during a traumatic event. Wednesday, students got to meet them in person and sit with them during lunch.
“It makes it a lot less scary for them in case there is a fire or a car accident or anything,” Warring said, and it shows them how the equipment works. The smoke house, in particular, gave them a chance to test their reactions to smoke in a safe environment.
Although the presentation was aimed at kids, the firefighters had tips for the entire family. Make a safety plan for the family in case of emergency and test it out.
“A lot of people have smoke safety plans,” Walt said. “Very few people practice them.”
If you call 911, stay calm, stay on the line and make sure to give an address.
“Don’t hang up before we tell you to,” Miller said. “A lot of times we hear ‘We have a fire at our house, get here.’ Click.”
Rural Douglas County firefighters respond to about 1,000 calls annually, Miller said. The Solon Springs Volunteer Fire Department is called out an average of 120 times a year, about 80 percent of those are medical calls. There is always a need for both firefighters and medical personnel.
“Our door’s always open to volunteers,” Walt said.
For more information on becoming a volunteer firefighter, contact one of the current members in your town or village.