By Brian Livingston
With cooler fall temperatures and early winter rapidly approaching, firefighters at Meridian Fire Department's Station One were more than willing Wednesday to share tips and lessons about home fire safety with area students.
Judging by the enthusiasm from seventh grade students from West Lauderdale High School, the firemen had an attentive audience.
"This is an excellent opportunity to drive home the importance of home fire safety," said Jason Collier, fire marshall for the MFD. "We also use this as a recruiting tool as well. There is always an aspiring firefighter in groups like this whether they know it yet or not."
October is Fire Prevention Month and Collier said during this time firemen from all across the MFD system visit daycares and schools to talk to children about the importance of home fire safety. In many cases, it is the children who get their parents and families to think more about how to prevent fires in the home and what to do if a fire does indeed break out.
"We are getting real close to that time of year when we see a spike in home fires," Collier said. "That first cold snap always seems to catch most people off guard. Now is the time to get your home and family in fire safety shape."
Lauren Snowden, one of the WLHS students watching a rescue exhibition Wednesday, said the event reminded her to talk to her family about home fire safety.
"We talk about things like if a burglar breaks into the home but we haven't talked about fire safety much," Snowden said. "We do know to gather out at the mailbox if the house catches on fire but there is more we need to talk about."
While the younger students in elementary school are taught the basics, Collier said when the students get older, more detailed fire safety lessons, such as those taught Wednesday are a good idea.
One thing the firefighters stressed to the students was the need for an escape plan at home in the event of a fire.
"These students go through fire drills at school so there is no reason why a family at home shouldn't go through them," Collier said. "Having a good, solid plan saves lives."
April McCary, one of the seventh grade teachers accompanying the students, said fire education is vital.
"For them this is a very cool thing to do and at the same time they are learning valuable lessons," McCary said. "Children are taught fire safety when they are very young and as they get older, trips like this just exposes them to more information."
Collier said in addition to home fire safety and escape plans, the students are educated on the importance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
"Now, not next week or next month, but now is the time to check those alarms around the home to make sure they work," Collier said. "You can't really use an escape plan if when you are asleep you aren't warned of the danger. Most of the victims of fires don't die from the flames but rather from the smoke, so get those alarms in good working condition."
Collier said smoke alarms should be placed near bedrooms and in hallways to alert residents who may be sleeping.
Collier also strongly advises residents to check and clean their chimneys, have their central heat units serviced by a certified technician, and to inspect space heaters and extension cords.
"And please, use common sense and don't put space heaters near combustible materials like drapes, furniture and clothing," Collier said. "A high percentage of home fires can be avoided if the homeowner just uses some logic."
By Brian Livingston
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