Enforcing fire safety awareness with a hint of fun

Lieutenant John Babinec and firefighter Eliseo Anaya, aka Sparky, teach children at the Fermilab Daycare Center the importance of fire safety awareness. Photo: Jessica Orwig

A clear blue sky dawned the morning of Oct. 9 when fireman Lieutenant John Babinec quizzed a group of eager children at the Fermilab Daycare Center on their knowledge of fire safety.

“What are the three things you need to do if your clothes catch fire?” Babinec asked.

“Stop, drop and roll,” the children shouted in unison as the Fire Department’s mascot, Sparky the Dalmatian – enacted by firefighter Eliseo Anaya – demonstrated the three steps.

“The fact that the children can answer basic fire safety questions means we must be doing something right,” said Fire Chief Chuck Kuhn, who first suggested the idea that the Fire Department give annual fire safety presentations at the daycare.

Now in its 18th year, the 45-minute talks and demonstrations have become tradition. Firemen discuss a variety of safety topics, including when to call 911 and what to do in the event of a fire. The firemen also give a demonstration where one of the team members suit up in full uniform so that children can see what a fireman looks like when fighting fire.

After this year’s suit-up subject, firefighter Eric Poss, got into full uniform, he got down on all fours and crawled around the children, asking through his mask, “Is anyone there?” He did this to show children what a fireman might do if he were looking for someone in a burning building.

“One of the main points we want the children to learn is to not be afraid of us,” Kuhn said. “If we’re looking for a child inside of a burning building, we don’t want them hiding in fear of us.”

After the presentation, the children got a chance to sit inside a fire truck and experience, if only for a few seconds, what it’s like to be a fireman. The step up into the truck is a bit high for a five-year-old, so the children get a helpful hand from the firemen.

“The firemen really make the children here a priority,” said Patricia Hedrick, who heads the daycare center. “I think the children enjoy the visits from the firemen, and they learn a lot.”

As some of the team waved goodbye and drove away, a little girl asked Chief Kuhn, “Where’s Sparky?”

“He’s probably off chasing a cat,” Kuhn said, and the little girl went back inside. “Honestly, I think we have more fun with these presentations than the children,” he said with a smile.

Jessica Orwig

Firemen and children get together for a photo to commemorate the day’s success. Photo: Jessica Orwig