More than 100 fourth graders from Vine Street Elementary school received a lesson in fire and earthquake safety on Wednesday as part of a program by the Los Angeles Fire Department and MySafe: L.A., a non-profit emergency preparedness organization.
Firefighters from the LAFD’s Battalion 5 in Hollywood visited the school and discussed the importance of having a plan if an emergency occurs. The visit was part of the new program offered by the LAFD and MySafe: L.A. that was created last year, where firefighters visit elementary schools for similar presentations.
Cameron Barrett, a director for MySafe: L.A., said the lesson is specifically geared to fourth graders because they have reached an age where they can understand the material, and can spread the word among their peers and family members. Many of the students at Vine Street Elementary are also from Spanish speaking households, and the emergency preparedness program offers a way for the fire department to reach those families who otherwise may not receive the message.
“When we ask ‘how many people have a family evacuation plan?’, a lot don’t raise their hands, so we are teaching the kids the importance of having a family escape plan, having a place to meet up after they are outside, and to remember their pets. It’s all something they can easily do, and we hope they will take a lead in sharing this information with their families.”
The program consisted of video presentations on fire safety and earthquake preparedness, stressing that it is not recommended that people run outside or stand in a doorway when an earthquake occurs. The students were instructed in the technique of “Drop, Cover and Hold-On”, and jumped from their seats and got under their desks under the direction of LAFD Capt. Steve Owens. With fire safety, the students were instructed to always feel around doors to check to see if they are hot, and to make sure they check on family members to make sure they can get out safely. One of the main goals was simply to familiarize the students with firefighters, according to LAFD Battalion chief Joseph Castro.
“What we find is for people to be safe, they have to prepare, just like we do. When people wake up at three in the morning and their house is filled with smoke, that is not the time to consider a safety plan. They need to be prepared to follow a plan where they can get out of the house to safety,” Castro said. “Another thing that we face is 98 percent of children this age have never seen a firefighter in full firefighting gear, so we want to show them what a firefighter looks like when they have to come to a fire.”
Vine Street Elementary School principal Chris Stehr said the timing of the presentation was very appropriate because of the earthquake last week, and because of recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.
“It’s a good reminder of where we live, and that it’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of when we are going to have an earthquake. I am a real believer in [constant repetition], so if something happens, it will be automatic,” Stehr said. “The fire safety information is also good. One of our student’s families recently had a fire where the whole apartment burned, and because they had smoke detectors, everybody got out OK. It was a teachable moment, and this builds on that point.”
Barrett said MySafe: L.A. has emergency preparedness materials available to schools, businesses and individuals. For information, visit www.mysafela.org.
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