Firefighters Prep Kids For Fires

Allan Appel PhotoFirst a"pass device”—a piece of safety equipment that alerts other firefighters that one of their number has not moved in 30 seconds—went screamingly off in a blaring alarm inside the rotunda.

Then the aerial ladder was extended nearly 60 of its maximum 100 feet high over the entryway.

That happened Monday at Clinton Avenue School. But it wasn’t a real emergency.

Truck 3 from the Lombard Street Firehouse came to the school at the invitation of the first-grade teachers to offer the kids a demonstration.

Teachers Lisa Pereira, Elsa Rivera, Julia Evola, and Rocio Barahona were in the midst of a grade-wide civics unit. The unit is designed to help all 55 first graders in the 550-kid K-through-eighth grade school understand the difference, for instance, between a rule and a law. (If you don’t know the difference—from a first-grade perspective—the answer is at the end of the story.)

The kids are reading a book called Signs in Our Neighborhood and talking and writing about rules and procedures in their homes, in the library, in the cafeteria, among other venues, said Pereira, who has taught for 15 years.

What better way to teach the importance of procedures — another term for rules — than having Firefighters Joe Guarino, Mark Natale, Michael Guercia, and Captain Daniel Coughlin drop by to demonstrate.

Student Isaias Rivas said he was especially looking forward to play with the dog. Jahmair Forte wanted to put out a sample fire and manage the hose.

The firefighters didn’t bring a dog. And they didn’t have a hose opportunity ready. But they did not disappoint, as they treated the kids to a tour of the cab of Truck 3, a ladder demonstration, and other cool stuff.

When Firefighter Guarino donned his equipment, including helmet, axe, and oxygen tank and mask, the excited kids grew quiet.

Firefighter Michael Guercia avuncularly took a seat in front of the kids, beside a table rich with cookies and a cake that the kids’ families and school staff had prepared as a token of appreciation.

“If there’s a fire in your house,” he asked the students, “what do you do?”

“Call 9-1-1,” one first grader answered.

Not quite. The rule is, Guercia reminded the little answer-er, “Get out first, and then call.”

“If there’s smoke, what do you do?”

As no hands went up, he gave the procedure (or rules) to follow for that one: “Get down low. Never hide.”

As Firefighter Guarino leaned on his axe, one kid asked why that was basic equipment. The answer: to knock a door down if necessary.

“What if the door is hard?” another questioner said.

“We’ll get in,” Guercia said, with confidence

“What if the door’s locked?”

“We have the tools,” Guercia replied.

A discussion ensued on how fires start. Flames can ignite drapes, for instance, the firefighters told the students.

Firefighter Joe Guarino demonstrated how he would look—with oxygen mask on and his tank operational—if he entered your house to save you.

“Don’t be scared,” he said

Suddenly the rotunda in which the kids were sitting was blasted by an alarm.

His safety alarm — the pass device that would alert brother firefighters to come to his rescue — went off. It was a teaching moment.

It went off, Guercia explained, because Guarino had been stationary for 30 seconds. Its alarm would alert others to come to his rescue. The device goes off whether a firefighter is down on the ground in serious trouble or simply not moving, as was the case in the rotunda.

Pereira seized the teaching moment as well. “When we’re in trouble, firefighters save us. When they’re in trouble, that alarm saves them,” she said.

Twenty minutes later, all 55 of the kids had watched the raising and lowering of the aerial ladder and touring Engine 3’s cab.

Giada Rodriguez said she loved being in the cab most/ The rule she’s remembering is that if you’re on fire, you must “stop, drop, and roll.”

She and the other lids and their teachers thanked the firefighters and returned to their classrooms.

The Clinton Avenue School’s project-based learning is one of the success stories among the Commissioners Network schools, Pereira said. All their units of the Clinton curriculum, such as this one on rules and laws, incorporate reading and writing as required by the statewide Common Standards.

Pereira said most likely the kids would each write a few sentences about what they did and saw, and maybe draw a picture.

The sumputous treats the kids had made for the firefighters were last seen being taken by Guarino into the cab of Engine 3. No equipment was necessary for that procedure.

Oh, and the difference between a law and a rule, for first graders?

“A law is mandated by police, and enforced. A rule is like a law, but with an easier consequence,” explained Pereira to this former-first grader.

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