Sacred Heart students learn fire safety
“Am I scary?” Firefighter Kevin Burges asks Sacred Heart School’s pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. Burges, from the Salisbury Fire Department, is on a mission to help children not be scared of his uniform. During National Fire Prevention Week, he visited elementary classes at Sacred Heart with all his firefighter gear. He explained that his job had three parts:
1. To keep them safe
2. To keep their stuff safe
3. To help keep things calm if something crazy happens
He also told them that if he had to drive his fire truck and go fight a fire, then he felt that he had failed because his biggest job is to prevent fires.
The children were full of questions and just amazed at how much gear Burges had to wear. “It really helps the children to see me out of uniform first … and then talk about each part of my uniform while I put it on. They have lots of questions. Truthfully, when I am fully dressed and breathing with my oxygen, I look scary to them. I want them to run to me in a stressful situation, not away from me.”
Burges took time to show the students all the snaps and zippers of his normal dress uniform. “It makes it fun for them to see how fast I can come out of my shoes and my shirt. … It really helps them to relax and listen.” Then Burges takes them slowly through his step by step dressing process — starting with his boots, which have his overpants and suspenders attached. He even lets them jump on his boots to show the students how tough they are. He includes all parts — hood, firefighter coat, his bookbag (oxygen tank and buckles), helmet, a mouth piece for oxygen and gloves. No parts of his body are showing. Then he asks them, “Am I Scary?” The children shout, “Noooo!”
Other points to Burges’ lessons included practicing fire drills at home and making sure families have at least two ways out of the house. He also encouraged them to have an outside meeting place where their parents would be able to find them. He told them that a mailbox is a good place. He stressed to the students that they should not go back into a fire for a pet or favorite stuffed animal. “Wait for me to get there. Finding your pets and favorite things is my specialty. When I arrive in my special uniform, I will go back in and get them. You stay outside.” One last point was to discuss kitchen fires and how they start as they top the list for causes of residential fires.
The last part of Burges’ visit was to go around the room and let the children “high five” him. “It helps to put them at ease.” He reminds then again:
”Am I scary?”
“If you see me, run to me. I will give you a piggy back ride. Don’t run from me, because I am not scary and I am there to help.”
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on Oct. 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on Oct. 9, 1871.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which Oct. 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The president of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.
Last year’s theme was to have two ways out. This year’s theme focuses on preventing kitchen fires.