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Base fire department helps educate kids
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—Simulated smoke billows from a hidden compartment inside the 17th Civil Engineer Squadron’s mobile fire safety house. The two-bedroom trailer simulates many of the fire hazards present in a home and is used as a tool for fire prevention education. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith)
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Base fire department helps educate kids

Posted 2/8/2012   Updated 2/8/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith
17th Training Wing Public Affairs

2/8/2012 - GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas--  -- Members of the 17th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services group teamed up with Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department Feb. 6 to take their fire prevention message on the road, visiting Grape Creek Elementary School.

The small, outlying school falls outside of the San Angelo Fire Department's jurisdiction, so it is serviced primarily by a volunteer fire service. The base works in conjunction with the Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department to provide valuable, life saving fire prevention education to local children using a mobile fire safety house.

"Many children are scared by fire and they may hide or act irrationally, making escape unlikely," said Glenn Haffner, 17th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant fire chief. "Educating our kids about the hazards of playing with matches or other flammable items, practicing a fire escape route with your family and talking to your children about what to expect in a fire are simple steps anyone can take. A prepared child is more likely to escape unharmed."

According to Haffner, in 2010 there were an estimated 369,500 reported home structure fires and 2,640 associated civilian deaths in the U.S. Fire can spread rapidly through a home, leaving as little as two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. A person's ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning- a home fire escape plan everyone in the family is familiar with and practiced.

The $60,000 mobile fire safety house is actually a two-room trailer. One room is set-up as a 'bedroom' complete with a bed, window blinds and a carpeted floor. The second room has a mock kitchen with a stove and refrigerator.

The house is equipped with several devices to help teach a variety of fire safety concepts. A fog machine introduces simulated smoke so children can practice low-crawling. A heated door panel impresses the need to feel closed doors to determine a safe route. A space heater in the bedroom reminds participants of the many mishaps that can occur around an open heating device. An escape ladder is used to demonstrate exiting from a bedroom window.

In addition, Haffner said a telephone is also used in the program. There is a hidden space with a phone where a firefighter stands. The children use a phone in the other room to make a call to "911". The hidden fire prevention specialist can see the child through a small window and answers as a real 911 operator would answer a call, asking the child for pertinent information such as his name, address and the nature of the emergency.

"This gives the child a chance to make a call to 911, and allows us the opportunity to see if the child knows the information each person should have to relay to a 911 operator," Haffner explained.

Five members of the Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department also came to the school, bringing two fire trucks with them-one to display to the children and another in case they needed to respond to a real emergency.

Scott Hasty, a 14 year member of the volunteer organization, said the children were excited about the prospect of exploring a fire truck and the home.

"This was a surreal experience for the kids," he added. "By working together with Goodfellow, we are able to share different kinds of knowledge and experience. The house and the fire truck really grab the kids' attention. It helps bring home the lessons we want to teach them."
MaryAnn Waldrop, the school's principal, said they work very hard to ensure the kids have an in-depth education about fire prevention.

"You can never have too much education about fire prevention," she said. "In my five years here, some of the children have lost their homes and we want to do everything we, as educators, can to stop it from happening to another child."

Waldrop explained she believes the children's excitement by the visit promotes information retention.
"We can barely keep them in their seats," she added. "Kids remember what they enjoy, so I am confident they will remember what they were taught."

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