Kindergartners from Kilpatrick Elementary School walked in a straight line Thursday morning across the vast parking lot that separates their school from Clayton County Fire Station 3 in Jonesboro for an education in fire safety and prevention.
As firefighters asked questions, it was clear that the students had studied up on what to do if a fire breaks out at home.
";Call 911,"; one shouted out.
";And don't play with 911 either,"; added another student.
What if there is smoke?
";Get low on the floor,"; yelled a child.
";Stop, drop and roll,"; chimed several in unison.
Firefighters Rob Boatman, Aaron Jackson, Brad Whitlock and sergeants Adam Joiner and Gregory Campbell led Thursday's teaching tour at the station on Battle Creek Road. Visits from schoolchildren at all county stations are a regular occurrence and important for fire education.
";Our ultimate goal is educating the community,"; said Campbell. ";Letting the community know what we do on a day-to-day basis.";
Joiner said firefighters also get out in the community at various public events, bringing the big fire trucks stocked with tools and equipment.
Joiner led the students in cheering on Boatman as he put on his turnout gear, including helmet, face piece and air bottle strapped to his back. The equipment weighs 40-60 pounds.
";He's supposed to be able to do it in two minutes,"; said Joiner. ";Do you think he can do it?";
Turns out, he can and with 5 seconds to spare. The kids cheered and clapped, but the silliness had a purpose.
";Does he look scary?"; Joiner asked the students. Boatman knelt, getting on their level, his face and head completely hidden by his protective gear. ";If you are ever in a fire and you see someone who looks like this, don't run away. Tell him, 'Here I am, come get me' because he is there to save you.";
October 9-15 is Fire Prevention Week, when officials remind residents to lessen the chances of accidental fires caused by cooking, heating and electrical equipment. When the mercury drops, heating a home becomes a priority for families. Sometimes, the source of heat can be a fire hazard in itself.
";Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment such as furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves or portable space heaters,"; said Clayton Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke. ";Also, have a 3-foot kid-free zone around open fires and space heaters.";
Forest Park Ward 3 Representative Maudie McCord used her comment time at Monday night's regular City Council meeting to remind folks to make sure their heating appliances are in good working order before turning them on for the winter.
Boatman said educating children on what to do in a fire can save lives.
";There may be a time when you are at home and be in a situation where there is a fire or smoke,"; he told them. ";If you don't know what to do, it is easy to get lost inside your own house and before you know it, it's too late. You have to get under the smoke and get out to your family's meeting place.";
Fall is also the season when fire officials recommend changing the batteries in smoke detectors, one of the best proactive measures people can take, said Feilke.
";In 2009, 2,565 people nationwide died in home fires,"; she said. ";Nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan. Residents should keep things that can burn away from the stove and always turn off space heaters before going to bed.";
Smoke alarms should be installed in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement, said Feilke.
";Interconnect all smoke alarms so when one sounds, they all sound,"; she said. ";Test smoke alarms at least monthly and replace all alarms every 10 years or sooner if they fail the monthly test.";
If a smoke alarm should sound, everyone in the family should know what to do and where to go. Prevention is key but if a fire breaks out, the right response can be vital.
";Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan,"; said Feilke. ";Walk through your home and inspect all possible ways out. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of the home, marking two ways out of each room.";
The students learned Thursday to test the heat of a door before opening it and to always tell an adult if they smell smoke.
";Don't go toward the fire,"; said Boatman. ";You want to go out, away from it. And never play with matches or lighters.";
Heating sources are just one common cause of fire and is normally limited to the winter months. However, a fire can break out anytime if families are careless.
";Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food,"; said Feilke. ";If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.";
Smoking and candles are typical causes of a fire.
";If you smoke, smoke outside,"; said Feilke. ";Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table. Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid using the candles in areas where people may fall asleep.";
For more information on preventing fires, call the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services at (770) 473-7833, or access www.firepreventionweek.org.