Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

November 5, 2012

Fired up over safety

Ryan Ellis
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM —     Sacred Heart wants to make sure a house fire doesn’t turn into a parent’s worst nightmare.

    Firefighters from the Effingham Fire Department spoke Friday to Kasey Tays’ preschool class on what to do in case of a house fire. It was a part of what has been an ongoing lesson in fire safety since the beginning of October that has included several important tips, such as calling 911, knowing their home addresses and learning their phone numbers.

    Tays said the students also learned how to do stop, drop and roll, and to ask their parents where they should meet if a fire occurs.

    For some of the students, the information was not new. But hearing it from an authority, such as a firefighter, can make a difference.

    “(My) son Alec was told to meet at the mailbox,” said Christy Hakman, director of Marketing and Parish Development at Sacred Heart, who had taught son about fire safety before Friday’s event. “After the firefighters said it to Alec, he asked whether we had a meeting place.”

    Still, with the excitement of a new activity buzzing through the air, Tays and her teaching assistant, Natalie Startzum, had a difficult time keeping the children’s attention focused on firefighter Capt. Jeff Landrus and firefighter A.J. Tackett.

    Landrus and Tackett spoke with the children about what to do if a fire erupted in their home. They asked if the children knew how to call 911. Instantly, every child’s excited hand soared into the air, and in unison, they shouted, “Yeah!”

    “It’s great to get into the schools and teach the kids about fire safety,” said Landrus.

    Afterward, Tackett began putting on his gear so the children could know what to expect if they have house fires.

    “We don’t wanna scare ‘em cause that defeats the purpose,” said Tackett.

    Landrus said October is the perfect time for fire safety because the kids are already thinking about dressing up. They relate the firefighting gear to Halloween costumes. It may look scary, but there’s someone inside there, he said to the kids.

    “I think it’s good for (the kids) to see the firefighters in their outfits so they’re not quite so scared of them,” said Tays.

    Tackett then asked if the kids wanted to see his gear. Twenty sets of feet stampeded toward him at the excitement of getting to see his helmet. The children were given toy firefighter helmets.

    After the presentation of the fireman’s “costume,” the children were taken outside. Wide-eyed and excited, they all stared at the red fire engine. The group of preschoolers waited patiently for the OK from Landrus and Tackett to move closer to the fire truck.  

    As they did, their eyes quickly and curiously darted all over the fire truck as they tried to figure out what each tool on the truck was for. Landrus popped open a hatch on the side of the truck and pulled out a portion of the red water hose they use to extinguish fires.

    “Do any of you guys have garden hoses at your houses that your parents use to water flowers?” asked Landrus.

    Every child’s head nodded in affirmation. Landrus said they use use a hose like that, only much bigger to fight the fires.

    Tackett then opened the truck up and the children clumped together to get a closer look inside.

    At the end of the lesson, Landrus and Tackett started up the massive truck and rolled out. A handful of the children stayed behind to watch it drive away.

    Tays said she definitely plans on having the fire department send someone to speak with her preschoolers next year around the same time because of the positive reinforcement it seems to have had on her class.

    “I think they (the kids) enjoyed seeing the fire truck and going in it,” she said. “I think they’ll remember a little better since they saw all of it rather than hearing me talk about it.”