By Mehgaan Jones
Children from three daycare centers quietly gathered at the Riverdale Library to receive vital lessons on fire safety and prevention.
On Thursday, Riverdale Fire Educator Carol Epton-Keitt began the class with an explanation of the duties of firefighters.
"Firefighters not only put out fires, but they also deal with medical emergencies," she said, as she also explained to the children "how to stay away from things that can hurt you."
She asked them to give examples of what can be hot, and what can be of harm. Some of the responses included: "matches," "irons," "water," and "plugs."
One class participant's imagination took over as she yelled, "dragons!"
The instructor stressed to the children, that if they find matches and lighters, they should tell adults to put them away in a safe place. She asked, "If you see it laying on the floor, will you pick it up?"
All the children answered in unison, "No!"
The children included pre-kindergartners from the ABC Learning Center, in Stockbridge, the Youth Empowerment Center, in Riverdale, and God's Children, Our Future Christian Daycare, in Riverdale.
Epton-Keitt visits the Riverdale Library, located at 420 Valley Hill Road, frequently, and was asked by Ramona Clark, youth services assistant, to come and teach the class.
Clark said that, usually, Thursday is storytime, but since October is National Fire Prevention month, the library decided to do the safety class instead.
"We have been learning about health and safety this week, so this class gives the kids a more hands-on experience," said June Dowell, a teacher at the Youth Empowerment Center in Riverdale. She added that the class helps reinforce safety in, and out of, the home, as well as at school.
"I feel that it is important to try and start as young as possible," said Epton-Keitt. She added that when kids see adults practicing bad safety habits, they are quick to say don't do that.
The highlight of the class was the traditional "stop, drop, and roll" demonstration. Sixty-three children lined up in a circle to participate. "If you do it correctly, you will receive a sticker," said Epton-Keitt. All of the students were successful, and received a firefighter-badge sticker.
"I learned to roll over and cover your face," said 4-year-old, Ashton Alford, who added that he knows not to touch a fire.
Epton-Keitt chose two volunteers, and dressed them in firefighter gear. "I want to teach them to recognize firefighters as someone to help, and not someone who they should be afraid of."
Ramona Clark was pleased by the class, and its turnout. "Kids remember everything you say," she said. Epton-Keitt added that, "If you can get one message across with this age, then that is good."