Small, panicky hands scrambled to open a window and the childrens’ voices became a little fearful in the seconds it took to escape the smoke filling the room.
But they knew what to do and quickly made their way to safety, thanks to coaching from Prince Edward County firefighters.
The firefighters and staff at Picton’s station celebrated Fire Prevention Week by conducting tours of the new hall, and leading a trip through the Hastings Prince Edward Fire Safety “smoke house” this week for all the County’s elementary students.
Though they had just received classroom-style training on what to do and how to respond, the simulation in the “smoke house” added a whole new dimension to learning just how scary a fire can be.
As the vapour filled the room, some children began to panic saying they could not see through the smoke. A few coughed, though the thick vapor used to simulate smoke is safe to breathe.
Those moments of panic are important, Division 1 Commander Rob Manlow said, because they will remember what to do if it happens to them in real life.
“Sometimes we hear the smoke alarm go off when somebody’s cooking and so we don’t act on them like we should. When you hear the fire alarm… leave,” stressed Gord Bell to the children visiting from CML Snider school on Wednesday morning. “It’s not your job to put out a fire. It is your job to get out of the house and get to the meeting place you have agreed on with your family in your escape plan.”
Fire Prevention Officer Mike Branscombe welcomed each group of children in the hall’s new training room where he presented fire safety tips, asked, and answered, questions.
“Close your bedroom door and break the window if you can’t open it, and then throw something outside,” he said. “That does two things. It gives you some fresh air, and it is a visual indication for firefighters arriving on the scene that somebody is there.
Most important, he told the children not to hide.
“We’re going to come looking for you so don’t hide in a closet, or under the bed. It will be scary. You will see our lights and you will hear us breathing in our special masks and that might sound scary too but if you can, stay by the window.”
Branscombe also focused on not only changing the batteries in the smoke detector, but changing the detector itself if it’s more than 10 years old.
“Smoke alarms don’t last forever,” said Branscombe. “Make sure you know how old all the smoke alarms are in your home.”
The theme of Fire Prevention Week 2016 is ‘Don’t Wait, Check the Date’ and the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) are urging Ontarians to replace smoke alarms in their homes every 10 years.
In 35 per cent of fatal home fires over the last five years, there was no smoke alarm warning. In 13 per cent of those fires, there were no smoke alarms at all.
On average, 36 injuries and six fatalities from home fires occur in October each year. Top ignition sources include cooking, heating equipment and electrical equipment such as wiring.
The following fire prevention measures can help keep you and your family safe:
Install smoke alarms on every storey and outside all sleeping areas.
Replace smoke alarms according to the manufacturer’s date, usually found on the back of the alarm
Test alarms monthly
Change the batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year
Reach out to neighbours, friends and relatives who may need assistance with maintaining and testing their smoke alarms.
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