This week, fire departments across the metro and the nation are trying to drive home the importance of preparing for disaster. They want families to think about more than one escape route, but a backup plan, in case it’s needed.
Fire safety is taught at the elementary school level, and Bellevue firefighters even visit preschools and daycare center to reach children early. “They go home and tell their parents what they learned,” said Fire Safety and Prevention Officer Brian Koontz.
"Test your smoke detectors when we change our clocks. A lot of people don't practice it. They talk about it but they really don't have the practice and when something happens, they just forget.”
Koontz said it’s also important to take time with the family and map exit routes, actually drawing out plans. "You want to have your main exit, but then you also want to have a secondary exit. We want you to practice that with the kids and families at home, have a plan, practice it at least twice a year,” he said. “We'd like to see more."
A plan, he said, should be posted somewhere visible – like on a refrigerator, so it’s always fresh on everyone’s minds and so that in the event of an actual fire, a response is automatic. "Just the time it takes you to get out of the house, call 9-11 and us to respond there timely, the house fire has grown immensely."
A fire doubles in size every 30-seconds, which is why every moment is crucial. One of the lessons firefighters teach young children is not to be afraid when help arrives. "We talk to them about not hiding under their beds or in their closet,” Koontz said, “We like to do a friendly firefighter demonstration."
They allow children to watch as a firefighter puts on his uniform, and then they let kids touch the gear. “We don't want the kids to be afraid of us… They know if they see us to come to us because we're here to help."
With older children, they work on window escapes and also how they can help ensure other family members like younger siblings make it out safely.
To find out more about Fire Prevention Week programs and activities in Bellevue, contact the department at (402) 917-2533.