Students get lesson in fire safety

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press Soo Hill Elementary students escape from a “smoky” room and lower themselves to the ground with the help of Escanaba Public Safety Officers Tabitha Marchese and Sam Pouliot during a fire prevention demonstration Tuesday. Tami Chouinard, a health care aide at the school, volunteered to assist the public safety officers. The Delta County Kids Fire Safety House is a hands-on teaching trailer. The demonstration is part of local efforts during Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13.

ESCANABA — This week is Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13, and efforts are underway to teach local youth about fire safety.

Throughout the week, Escanaba Public Safety Officers Tabitha Marchese and Sam Pouliotbrought the Delta County Kids Fire Safety House and a fire engine to the students at Soo Hill Elementary Tuesday. They have been visiting Escanaba schools throughout the week.

Soo Hill students learned what to do in case of a fire at home.

“This is an opportunity to teach children fire safety properly and how not to panic,” said Marchese.

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) campaign slogan this year is, “Look, Listen, Learn – Be Aware, Fire can happen anywhere.”

Marchese explained to students how important it is to know their house number, and how to calmly convey the information to first responders. She also taught students how to properly use a fire extinguisher.

“In my demonstration I explain how to work an extinguisher and then ask them to repeat each step back,” said Marchese, “They are very interested in what we’re doing here.”

In the Delta County Kids Fire Safety House, the students also learned about smoke alarms. The house simulates a smoke-filled home using a fog machine. Marchese explained to the children they were about to experience what it is like when a smoke alarm goes off in the house and what to do. She reminded them it was a demonstration and everyone would be alright. Like clockwork, the alarm went off and “smoke’ started to fill the room. Marchese had the students follow her out onto a balcony and lower themselves to the ground using a ladder attached to the Fire Safety House.

From 2011 to 2015, United States fire departments responded to an average of 358,500 home fires each year. During this time there were 12,300 civilian injuries, 2,510 civilian deaths, and over $6 billion in damage, according to the NFPA.

The percentage of families that have an escape plan and practice it is less than 50 percent.

According to the NFPA website, working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying from a reported house fire, in half. Cooking is tied for the second leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half of the civilian cooking-fire injuries occurred while fighting the fire themselves.

Heat producing components can be fire hazards if not cleaned or positioned properly. December, January and February are the three leading months for fires reported. Portable space heaters caused 84 percent of the home-heating fire deaths between 2009 and 2013 in the U.S., according to the NFPA, and dirty chimneys caused 30 percent.

To prevent a fire fatality in the home, check the smoke alarms. Alarms should be installed in each bedroom, outside each bedroom, and on every level of the home. If possible, install interconnecting smoke alarms. When one alarm goes off all smoke alarms will, providing more response time. Test smoke alarms once a month, and change the batteries twice a year. Smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling, or high on a wall, and at least 10 feet away from the stove in the kitchen.

An additional type of smoke alarm may be installed for hard of hearing, or deaf family members. These alarms may have strobe lights and bed shakers. Search home improvement stores for these items.

Fires started by heating equipment can be prevented with a few precautions. Keep anything that can burn three feet away from the heating element. Turn off portable heaters when leaving a room or going to bed. Have a professional clean a chimney.

The leading cause of cooking fires is unattended cooking. Always be alert, and do not get distracted. Stay in the area, or turn off the stove if no one is in the kitchen.

To fight a small grease fire on the stove top, cover the pan with a cover and turn off the stove top. Do not handle until the pan is cooled.

To fight a small grease fire in the oven, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

It is important to have an escape plan, and practice it at day and night. Draw a map of the home showing all windows and doors. Each room should have two ways out and verify all open easily. Part of an escape plan is to have a designated location to meet a safe distance from the house.