Children teach parents when it comes to fire safety

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

During fire prevention week, let's take a little poll. OK, here's the question: "Who do you believe is primarily responsible for increased awareness of fire danger in McCook?"

Of course, many people do their part to spread the fire safety message. But, in the opinion of McCook Fire Chief Marc Harpham, the most important contributors to the cause of fire safety are the community's children.

"I am constantly amazed by how helpful the youngsters have been," Harpham said. "The children learn the importance of smoke detectors and a home escape plan when the fire department presents safety programs at the schools. The students carry that message home to their parents, and -- in a number of cases -- the family takes action to protect themselves against fire."

Looking back on his 21 years as a firefighter, Harpham said there have been many times that adults in the family give children credit for inspiring life-saving action in the home. "The students carry the message. They tell their Mom and Dad, 'We need smoke detectors,' or 'In case of fire, get out of the house immediately." The parents listen ... the parents learn ... and the steps they take save lives and limit damage."

Admittedly, there's still a long ways to go, but the community has made considerable progress on fire safety in recent years. One of the things that has helped is the Fire Safety Trailer, purchased for the fire department following a community-wide fund drive. The "Fire House" makes a strong impression on the youngsters, with a smoke machine teaching them the importance of the low crawl through smoke to outside safety.

During National Fire Prevention Week, Chief Harpham encourages everyone -- young, old and in between -- to put a fire safety plan in effect for their homes and businesses. That starts with working smoke detectors and a home escape plan. It also must include understanding the importance of this year's safety slogan: "When fire strikes: Get out! Stay out!" In other words, don't try to save personal belongings, or search for the cause of the fire. Stay safe. Let firefighters battle the blaze.

The peak season for fire danger is approaching. Furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves increase the risk. There's no better time than now to take action. Learn from the children. Give your fire department a call. The firemen will come to your home and install a smoke detector. And while they're there, the firefighters will help you prepare a home escape plan.

There's no charge, which is an exceptional service, especially when you consider that the firemen's advice could save your life.

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