Fire safety is something all parents should talk about with their children, so I was very excited to get to sit down with Patrick Kramer from the Longmont Fire Department to go over some very important information. Patrick is in his 16th year at the Longmont Fire Department and in his 10th year as an Engineer. He drives the ladder truck for his team. He is a Colorado native and a CSU graduate. He had a previous career but decided he wanted a change, so he enrolled in the Fire Academy and fell in love with the job. He has a true passion for helping other people and believes that, "making your bad day better is a great feeling."
Q- What are the most important things that we talk to our children about when it comes to fire safety?
A- Two of the most important things you can talk to your children about would be: 1) Not playing with fire. Teach your children to not play with matches or lighters. If they find one, teach them to not touch it, and go find an adult and let them know where it is. 2) Have a home fire safety plan.
Q- What is the most important thing we talk to our children about; when it comes to, if a firefighter shows up to help?
A- Don't be afraid! Depending on the call we might show up in our regular uniform (t-shirt and pants) or in all of our protective gear. If we are in our full gear no skin will be visible and we will have on a special mask that will make our voice sound different. Don't be afraid of who is behind the mask. To help children to not be scared we go to local schools and show the students how we look in our normal uniform first and then will put on all of our gear in front of them so they will be able to realize it is still us under all the protective gear. Please reinforce to your children that there is nothing to be afraid of if they see us all geared up.
Q- What can be expected when the fire department is called to a house fire?
A- When responding to a house fire call you will see multiple vehicles arrive. There might be several fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles that show up. There will be a buzz of activity and lots of people moving around. It might feel chaotic but everyone will move quickly and with a purpose. Every person has a job and knows what their job is before they even arrive. The police might block off the street to traffic. The ambulance will be on hand for any injured person from the house or possible injury to any firefighter or police officer. The first firefighter on scene will do a 360 check around the entire house or structure and will relay information to everyone else. The home owner/or whomever called the fire in will be asked if everyone is out of the house. Be prepared to provide as much information as you can; such as, how many family members and pets reside at the location, where the fire started or the location of the smoke you saw and any thing else you feel is important for them to know.
Q- What should we teach our children when it comes to the home fire safety plan and when should we do fire drills?
A- First thing is to teach children to stay calm and get out of the house. Allow your children to be part of making the home fire safety plan and where to meet up at. You can choose to meet at the neighbor's house, a mailbox or even a cool looking tree near by; just be sure it is somewhere the children will remember. I can not stress enough how important it is to practice fire drills at home! Practicing fire drills makes the response more automatic if it is ever needed for an actual fire. Make the drills fun but be serious about them. Let the children hear the sound of the smoke detector so they know when they hear it to get out of the house. Practice at different times of the day and night and even from different locations within the home. You can even have them lay down and shut the door as one scenario.
While practicing getting out of the house is important, it is important to talk to your children about other scenarios as well for your family escape plan. Teach your children if there is smoke to crawl and stay low to stay below the smoke and the heat. If their door is shut they should feel the door and see how hot it is before opening it. Open the door to peak out and see if there is fire in the way of their exit route or just smoke. If there is no fire present then they should get out of the house. If there is fire in the way, close the door and open a window to signal for help. Your children do not have to climb out the window if they are unable to, instead they can yell out the window as loud as they can for help or they can throw something out the window; like a stuffy or a blanket, the firefighters know to look for these types of signs. Remind your children it is very important to not hide under their bed, in a closet or anywhere that will make it hard to find them. If a firefighter has to come into the room to get you don't be afraid and yell out to them where you are as this will help them locate you faster.
Q- What should you do if you are on fire?
A- STOP. DROP. And ROLL. You want to stop moving, drop to the ground and roll around until the fire is out, and then seek medical attention if needed.
Q- What are some of the top reasons for house fires?
A- According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) the #1 cause of house fires is unattended cooking. Some of the other more common causes are from electrical problems, candles, smoking in bed and curious children playing with fire.
Q- How important is it to have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the home?
A- I can not stress enough how important it is to have these! Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that is odorless, tasteless and invisible. It will slowly suffocate you and can cause nausea, vomiting, red skin, sleepiness and eventually death. Smoke detectors can give you the warning you need in time to get out before the fire completely takes over your house.
Q- How often should we check our smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors?
A- You should check and test them twice a year when the time changes. Be sure to change the batteries and clean the inside of any dust or cobwebs. You can use a can of air to blow them out or just take them outside and blow them out with your breath. Most detectors have a life span of 7-10 years and if you look on the back of the unit there should be a manufacture date for reference of how old it is. Be sure to test and check every unit and replace them when necessary. Both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors look the same.
Q- Where should smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors be placed in our home?
A- Both; smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be on every level of your house including the basement. You especially want them on the outside of every bedroom. Carbon Monoxide detectors can be hung high on the ceiling or plugged into an outlet lower down. Smoke Detectors should be hung on the ceiling.
Q- If someone can not afford smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors is there any program to help, or a place they can go, to get some for free?
A- Contact the Longmont Fire Department. They have a program to help.
Q- Where should fire extinguishers be placed in our home?
A- Because the #1 cause of house fires is from cooking; you should, at least, always keep a fire extinguisher under your kitchen sink or near the stove.
Q- Where can expired fire extinguishers be disposed?
A- You can throw them away with the regular trash.
Q- Besides house fires; what other type of calls might have the fire department show up for?
A- 75% of calls are for medical reasons. This includes, but is not limited to, strokes, seizures, heart attacks, falls, crashes and any and all possible medical calls. We also respond to structure fires, car crashes, forest fires, search and rescue calls, water rescues and what we call lift assist (this is when someone who maybe lives alone falls and needs help up but might not need medical attention necessarily).
Q- Why do firefighters take the fire trucks to places like the grocery store while they shop?
A- We will go to the grocery store with the whole crew and the truck because we work 48 hour shifts and sometimes we need to get food. We are responsible for our own food and just like everyone else we need to restock our fridge from time to time. We always will have the truck and whole crew with us so if we get a call we can drop everything and respond quickly. This is also why you might see the truck parked in the front of the store or in a fire lane, the quicker we can get to the truck and go the quicker we can help.
Q- What other important things do you want parents to know when it comes to keeping their children safe from fires and when they talk to their children about fire safety?
A- It is important to have a healthy respect for fire.
Talk to your children about fire safety, practice fire safety and do fire drills. Make sure everyone knows the family meeting place.
Make sure your children know their address for emergencies.
Teach your children how to dial 911 in an emergency. Be sure to go over what 911 emergencies are and what are not reasons to call 911. Practice a "911 call" with them; without actually calling 911. On the "call" ask them what the emergency is, their name and address. Make it very clear to children that calling 911 is for emergencies only and not for fun.