By Linda Looney-Bond
Students at Church Street Elementary in Riverdale received a crash course in fire safety Tuesday.
Members of the Riverdale Fire Department visited the school with the agency's Fire Safety Bus. The bus is equipped with a simulated fireplace, a kitchen, a small bedroom, and a seating area for discussing fire-safety issues.
The bus is used to educate children about fire prevention, including cooking safety and fireplace safety, according to Lt. Demetries Wells, of the Riverdale Fire Department.
"We purchased the bus about five or six years ago for a dollar," said Wells. "We fixed it up and made it into a little safety house. We go to different schools and events and teach kids about safety," he added.
"This month is Fire Prevention Month in the state of Georgia," he said.
During the month of October the Riverdale Fire Department visits elementary schools in the city, focusing primarily on children in grades K-4, according to Wells.
He said the firefighters also teach the children how to "stop, drop, and roll," if their clothes are on fire -- and they emphasize the importance of establishing a meeting place at home, in the event of a fire.
"We teach the kids that you have to have two ways out [during a fire], one being a door, and the other being a window," Wells said.
"If the kids go out the window, and you go out the front door, the kids may run down the street to the neighbor's house. Then, you come around to the front of the house. The first thing the parents are going to do is look for their kids," he said.
"When we pull up, the first thing they tell us is, 'My baby's in the house.' And we're going to go get that baby. But, meantime, the baby's gone down the street.
"So, then, we could lose firefighters, and sometimes, the parents go in looking for the kid, and they lose their lives," he said. "So, we teach them to always establish a meeting place, with their parents, at the home, so if they do go out of separate doors, they'll know to meet at that place, and everybody will be safe."
Wells said the Fire Safety Bus is also available throughout the year for teaching at events, upon request. In addition, during the month of October, Riverdale firefighters will educate Riverdale residents on the placement, and use of, smoke detectors in their homes, and also provide smoke alarms for those who need them, according to Wells.
"We go into the community, and we go door to door asking people if they would like to have smoke alarms installed in their homes. If they want one, we install it in their home for free," he said.
Free smoke-alarm installation and education are also available for Riverdale residents year-round, upon request, according to Carol Epton-Keitt, fire safety educator for the Riverdale Fire Department.
For more information, or to request the Fire Safety Bus, or smoke-alarm assistance, contact Carol Epton-Keitt at (770) 909-5463.