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Arrangements with the host school and municipal fire department serving that area have been in the works for months prior to the scheduled "school day." Scheduling classes and platoons takes time, and the "all-school fire drill" exercise is a highlight for everyone, from school children to academy students.
On "Fire Safety School Day," platoons are introduced to their classes by fire academy instructors and teachers. The lessons then begin, with 45 minutes scheduled for the program. Each classroom fire academy instructor makes notes for later review by the platoons.
At the end of the 45-minute presentations, a fire alarm is sounded throughout the school. Academy students were briefed about the drill, but told not to mention it during their presentation. After the sounding of the fire alarm, academy students are not to take charge of classroom evacuation. The teachers and class are to "help" their visitors out of the building.
To make matters worse, one end of the school is fully charged with dense smoke, making escape impossible out that end of the building. Schoolchildren must "think on their feet" and find their alternate escape. Choosing the exit in the opposite direction of the smoke, they safely escape to the outside air. Children are met with the sounds of fire engines. Arriving on the scene, firefighters in full turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) stretch hoselines and enter the building. The outside team of firefighters uses aerial towers to ladder the building and gain access to the roof.
Once the "all clear" is issued by firefighters to the school, the students are informed that the smoke they saw came from a smoke machine owned by the fire academy. It was set up to issue smoke while the fire safety presentations were in progress. Schoolchildren are complimented on their orderly evacuation under adverse conditions. Children are allowed to see the fire apparatus up close and hold fire hoses and nozzles before returning to their classrooms. Upon returning to their classrooms with fire academy platoons, academy students give schoolchildren more positive feedback on the evacuation, and explain the importance of knowing two ways out of every building, just in case one of them is blocked by fire or smoke.
Much planning and preparation on the part of fire academy staff and academy students goes into the fire safety education portion of the academy. The positive feedback from the school staff, students and academy students makes this a memorable experience for all. More important, the academy students are told that this is just the beginning of the impact they can have on the safety of their citizens - the challenge is keeping up that kind of dedication and commitment once the academy is complete. With our comprehensive safety education program, however, we feel they have been adequately prepared to face the challenges of educating the public they serve.
Tom Kiurski is a firefighter with the Livonia, MI, Fire & Rescue Department, where he has served for 12 of his 17 years in the fire service. He is an adjunct faculty member in Oakland Community College's Fire Training Institute.
Ron Deadman is a lieutenant in the Birmingham, MI, Fire Department, where he has served for 19 of his 22 years in the fire service. He is the assistant director of Oakland Community College's Fire Training Institute.
Nels Olsen is a firefighter/AEMT with the Pontiac, MI, Fire Department, where he has served for nine of his 13 years in the fire service. He is the coordinator of Oakland Community College's Fire Training Institute.