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Cape Elementary fourth-graders learn fire safety tips

By Staff | Feb 4, 2010

The fourth-graders dropped to their knees Thursday morning and quickly crawled toward the only accessible window as a white haze filled the room and a smoke alarm beeped out a loud warning.
Having already tested the room’s door handle — it was too hot to open, the students knew the window was their second escape route from possible injury or worse. Reaching the window, the children climbed out one by one then down a short ladder to the ground below.
Quickly moving away from the potential danger, the students gathered at a makeshift mailbox set up several feet away, which bore the number 911.
All smiles and giggles, the children then talked about the practice drill, hosted by the Cape Coral Fire Department.
“It was interesting,” fourth-grader Brooke Sellers said. “But everyone was panicking and that’s the worst thing to do.”
All six fourth-grade classes at Cape Elementary School, at 4519 Vincennes Blvd., participated in Thursday’s program, which included the mock fire drill in the fire department’s fire safety trailer, a discussion of fire safety and fire prevention for the home and a tour of a Cape fire engine.
Inside the trailer, Shannon Barone’s class listened as Dave Webster, public education specialist for the Cape Fire Department, discussed a mix of topics. He told the students that fire safety is important because as they get older they will be home alone, may watch their younger siblings for their parents and will begin to use the microwave and stove.
“You’re going to learn what you need to do to become the firefighter in your home and help your mom and dad,” Webster said.
He explained that matches and lighters are tools and not toys, and discussed the danger associated with candles. He said it is important where candles are put and how they are used. Webster talked about why metal and aluminum foil cannot be put in a microwave and why microwaved containers of food should be opened carefully, away from one’s face.
“Stem can burn you, hot water can burn you,” he said.
When cooking on a stove, the handles of pots and pans should face inward, away from the edge of the stove. Webster told the students that if a handle faces outward, younger siblings can pull it downward and dump hot food on themself.
“You’re the firefighter in the house,” Webster said. “Firefighting doesn’t mean just putting out flames.”
Extension cords are for short-term use and should not be placed under rugs or furniture, he said. For long-term use, surge protectors are good because a built-in safety switch turns off the electricity if it gets too hot. Webster said items like irons and blow dryers should be unplugged when not in use.
“When you’re done … unplug the plug,” he said.
Webster explained what to do if a smoke alarm goes off at home, asked the students how to check for a fire on the other side of a door and covered the importance of having a family meeting place in the case of a fire, such as by the mailbox, at the end of the driveway or at a neighbor’s front door.
“If the door handle’s hot, there’s a fire on the other side,” fourth-grader Jack Roche said.
Wrapping up the discussion, Webster flipped some switches located on the wall, turning on the trailer’s smoke alarm and fog machine. Slightly shocked, but all smiles, the students headed for the window at the back of the trailer.
Members from Cape Coral Fire Station No. 1 were also present Thursday. Firefighter Paul Marzella showed various equipment located on the fire engine, including first aid kits, ropes and flashlights. The students examined two types of axes, a chainsaw and scuba equipment used by firefighters.
“The axe you’ll see a lot in the fire service,” Marzella said.
Lt. Todd Rigoni, Engineers Amanda Brasher and Jorden Lowther and Firefighter Jon Thompson also talked and joked with the children Thursday.
“We just come out to educate the kids,” Rigoni said. “The main thing for these guys is having a meeting place outside … where we can account for them.”
According to Webster, the fire safety program is held at 14 schools in the Cape. The fire department focuses on fourth-graders and kindergarteners, with the kindergarten classes learning “the five fire safety rules they need for life.” He said approximately 130 fourth-graders participated Thursday.
Megan DeRosso, a fourth-grade teacher at Cape Elementary, said the fire safety program educates children on what to do and provides them with the knowledge to create a safety plan with their family.
“I think that this is important for our kids because it gives them the knowledge to take back to their home,” she said. “And they enjoy it. It’s a good learning experience for them.”