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Lessons that could save a life

The mobile Fire Safety House is set up to teach children in kindergarten through second grade how to survive a fire.

By MICHELE MILLER
Published January 31, 2007


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WESLEY CHAPEL - Pasco County firefighter Pat Healy was in charge of the smoke. Keeping a close eye on the monitor in the "control room" that also doubles as a restroom, he flipped the fog machine switch at just the right time. The red light was on, and lo and behold, "smoke" was suddenly billowing out of the vents in the miniature living room that was just around the corner and up a few stairs.

"Here it comes," said Healy as he watched a passel of first-graders on the monitor make their escape while practicing the concept of "Stay Low and Go."

On hands and knees, 6-year-old Stephanie Carrion, wearing a white "Royal Cutie" sweatshirt with Cinderella on the front, was the first to make her way to a bedroom window, descend the short chain ladder and be "caught" by Pasco County firefighter Joe Russo.

"Now that you're out, where do you go?" Russo asked as Stephanie scampered off.

Why to the meeting spot at the mailbox, of course.

"I wasn't afraid of the smoke," said Stephanie, showing a gap-toothed smile.

"And I got to call 911," chimed in classmate, Dakota Langford, 7.

The mobile Fire Safety House is all part of the Pasco County Fire Rescue Prevention Program geared to youngsters in kindergarten through second grade. It was purchased in 2003 for $35,822 with money from a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Fire Prevention grant and matching money $10,746 from Pasco County.

Throughout the school year the little house on wheels sets up shop in Pasco elementary school parking lots to teach kids important stuff about fireplace and microwave safety, how to know there's a fire in the next room by checking the doors for heat, how to put out a stove fire, and how to dial 911 if you have to.

Last week the safety house that comes complete with such things as a small electric fireplace, fog machine for simulating smoke, kitchen set-up and "hot" doors, spent three days at Sand Pine Elementary. There, firefighters from firehouse Engine 26 and Rescue shift 26A gave about 600 kids a tour along with some life-saving lessons.

Sand Pine students have already been learning about fire safety at school, said second-grade teacher Susan Lopez. "But this connects what we're doing in the classroom with a real-life simulation. We know that in an emergency they're going to be scared, and they need to be prepared."

That's the whole point, said fire inspector Amy Schultz. "We see about 5,000 children a year," said Schultz, adding that the safety house also is brought to local community events such as the recent Kumquat Festival, holiday parades, and will be open to the public at the upcoming Pasco County Fair.

"Last year was the first year in four years that we did not have any child fatalities, and we'd like to think this had something to do with it," said Schultz before heading off to greet the next group of kids. "2006 was a great year for us - no kids."

Have an escape plan and practice it - Decide on a meeting spot - Check doors for heat - Know how to call 911

Stay low to the ground, below smoke - Learn about fireplace safety - Make sure smoke alarms are working

Fast Facts:

 

Stay safe

The Pasco County Fire Rescue House Fire Safety House is available to all elementary schools in Pasco County. For information or to schedule a visit, call Amy Schultz, fire inspector, at (813) 929-1250 or e-mail aschultz@pascocountyfl.net.

For more information on Fire Prevention tips, go to www.nfpa.org.

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 23:32:10]


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