Salem Lakes Capt. James Koppelman educates Trevor-Wilmot students on the dangers of a fire. (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Area fire departments team up with schools

By Jason Arndt

When the smoke detector goes off in the night, children sometimes sleep through the blaring sounds, Village of Salem Lakes Fire Capt. James Koppelman said.

Fire Prevention Week, which is held annually the week of Oct. 9, looks to change the way children and their families protect themselves when their home is ablaze.

The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored the event since 1922 and selects a different theme, or slogan, each year.

In 2017, the NFPA slogan was “Every Second Counts, Plan Two Ways Out!”

As part of Fire Prevention Week, Koppelman and other Salem Lakes fire officials visited students at Salem, Riverview and Trevor-Wilmot schools.

“We saw 2,100 students from pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade,” Koppelman said on Oct. 12 at Trevor-Wilmot, where he led a burn demonstration before a group of fifth- and sixth-graders.

“We teach those children how fast a fire grows, by doing this demonstration burn,” he said.

Before Koppelman and his crew set a small room structure on fire, and later dispersed, they held fire safety activities inside the classrooms at Trevor-Wilmot.

Activities include practicing how to check if a door is a safe way out, coordinating a safety poster contest, and raising awareness of a firefighters role to younger children.

“We do age-appropriate education, in kindergarten, we do coloring with them and we dress up in firefighting gear to show them what we look like,” Koppelman said. “When we enter through homes searching for kids, they can hide very well, and they see us well before we can see them, and we look pretty scary with all of the stuff on.”

For students in the first- and second-grade, firefighters helped children develop an escape plan, including a meeting space for families.

Meanwhile, the winner of the safety poster contest comes with a reward, Koppelman said.

“The winner of that contest gets a free fire truck ride to school,” he said.

As the younger children learned the basics of fire safety, students in the seventh- and eighth-grade received leadership training, including how to guide their younger brothers and sisters when a fire emergency happens.

“Now that they have a little bit more knowledge, they have more responsibility with helping their younger siblings,” Koppelman said.

Making a difference
For nearly a decade, Koppelman and the Salem Lakes Fire Department has educated children on fire safety, and believes Fire Prevention Week has saved the lives of area families.

“My personal experiences are that fires are down in our area. Since I have been doing it, I have not had to carry children out of the house, and hopefully it keeps up.”

Like the Village of Salem Lakes Fire Department, two other agencies paired up with area schools, including the Village of Twin Lakes and Town of Wheatland.

Twin Lakes Fire Department met with students at both Lakewood and Randall Consolidated School while Wheatland education children at Wheatland Center School.


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