Firefighters bring message to students

 Last Thursday, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students atWhitehalltook a break from their reading, writing and arithmetic lessons to learn a few lessons that could perhaps save their life one day.

About a dozen firefighters from the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company presented a lesson in being prepared and knowing what to do during a fire as part of National Fire Safety Week.

“We hope they take away a few safety tips like stop, drop and roll and touching the door to see if it’s hot,” Chief Bryan Brooks said. “I like to hope that they’ll go home and ask their parents if they have smoke detectors or their grandparents if they know what to do in a fire.”

As many as 60 students gathered in the school gymnasium where firefighters presented several videos on fire safety, demonstrated safety tips and introduced themselves in full firefighting gear.

In a new wrinkle to the program, which has been going since some of the current firefighters were students, physical education teacher Pam Putorti joined members of the fire company in full turnout gear.

“We’re having Mrs. Putorti dress up in gear to show the kids anyone can be a firefighter,” Principal David St. Germain said.

“We dressed a teach up today to show kids firefighters aren’t scary,” added Brooks who said he’s noticed that some of the apprehension kids may feel when they see a firefighter dressed in full fear has decreased over the years. “It’s more accepted today, the kids aren’t as scared. Now, they can’t wait to see them.”

The presentation began with company president Brian Brooks introducing himself andChiefBrooksand he proceeded to tell students why they were there.

“There’s safe fire and there’s unsafe fire,” the elder Brooks said. “We’re here today to talk about unsafe fire.”

The students then watched a pair of videos-one animated and one featuring actual footage of structure fires and firefighters in action.

Afterwards president Brooks choose a volunteer from the audience that helped him demonstrate to children what to do if they woke up to the sound of a smoke detector, showing the kids the proper way to place the back of the hand against their bedroom door to see if it was warm.

Brooks also showed students how to stop, drop and roll with some help from Mattydale, the company’s Dalmatian.

Following the safety tips, the firefighters dressed in full gear, entered the gymnasium in much the way they would enter a burning building-on their hands and knees, in constant contact with one another. Then they removed their masks and introduced themselves.

“When they take off their gear, you realize it’s just normal people,” Brooks said. “They’re people from your neighborhood.”

After the presentation, the students had a chance to see a pair of fire trucks and each was lifted into and out of the trucks. They even got to watch the water canyon in action, probably every student’s favorite part.

When they returned to their classrooms, each student received a plastic firefighter hat and coloring book to go with the invaluable lessons they had learned.

“The program is invaluable,” St. Germain said. “Brian and the guys do a great job and adding the teacher this year made it even better. You can’t put a value on something like this.”

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