“Don’t be afraid – you’re going to hear some glass breaking,” Fire Prevention Officer Roger Freeman told students gathered outside Etowah Elementary on Friday.
Rather than cowering, the students broke into cheers as firefighters with the Etowah-Horse Shoe Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department shattered the windshield and windows of a Dodge Durango.
“Cut that door! Cut that door!” they chanted.
Culminating the school’s annual Fire Safety & Prevention Week, the Etowah-Horse Shoe V.F.R.D was demonstrating a car extraction with hydraulic rescue equipment, as Freeman narrated.
“We’ve got to get the windshield open so (we) can get in there,” Freeman said.
He explained that in the case of an actual wreck with a real person stuck inside a vehicle, a firefighter would crawl into the car through the open windshield to comfort and cover the individual, protecting them from glass as fellow firefighters broke the remaining windows.
Once a vehicle’s windows are busted and the doors pried off, Freeman said the firefighters can peel the car’s roof back like a sardine can, if need be.
Each year, a different demonstration highlights the school’s Fire Safety & Prevention Week; last year the focus was on water rescue, and two years ago the department demonstrated how they extinguished car fires.
Regardless of the annual demonstration, the department’s goals remain the same – teach new generations of Etowah students how to prevent fires, and familiarize them with rescue personnel and procedures.
“We try to show all the different aspects of fire (and rescue),” Freeman said. “If students see what we’re doing and hear the sounds, maybe they won’t be as scared,” in the event of an accident.
Like they’ve been doing for more than 25 years, members of the Etowah-Horse Shoe V.F.R.D. spent three days at the elementary school individually teaching every single classroom fire prevention and safety tips.
On Friday, Freeman reviewed the week’s lessons with students: go home and check the smoke detectors with parents, change smoke detector batteries whenever the time changes, make a family plan with “two ways out” of the house” and designate a meeting place, don’t use matches or lighters, wear bike helmets.
“We really stress, ‘We wear helmets for our safety – you’ve got to wear helmets for your safety,’” Freeman said.
He also reminded students who planned to go trick-or-treating on Halloween to add reflectors to their costumes, take a flashlight, go with an adult, and have an adult check their candy before snacking.
Etowah Horse Shoe V.F.R.D.’s fire prevention education program is so comprehensive, this is the fourth consecutive year the department has earned the Life Safety Achievement Award from the National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation (NASFM Foundation) and Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company.
Freeman hopes that by investing significant time, money, and effort into the school’s Fire Safety & Prevention Week, the community will benefit from a positive return on investment.
“We’re hoping to invest in our kids, so hopefully it’ll drive the (emergency) call volume down,” Freeman said.
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer