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THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2007
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Clarissa Childers and Ashlee Brown hug as they leave the smoke-filled room of a Fire and Rescue disaster simulator for Cotaco Elementary fifth-graders Wednesday at Priceville Town Hall.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Clarissa Childers and Ashlee Brown hug as they leave the smoke-filled room of a Fire and Rescue disaster simulator for Cotaco Elementary fifth-graders Wednesday at Priceville Town Hall.

Firefighter speaks to students about emergency preparedness

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

Lt. Douglass Davies would just as soon talk to fifth-graders as to their parents.

The Decatur firefighter said he has learned that 10- and 11-year-olds absorb more than adults of what he teaches about emergency preparedness, and also are more likely to apply those lessons at home.

"They do tend to go home and test their parents," Davies said, noting the students usually ask about whether their windows will open to escape a fire and whether the batteries in the smoke detectors work.

Davies spoke to 55 fifth-graders Wednesday as part of an emergency awareness field trip organized by the American Red Cross. Based on its success, the organization hopes to do more.

The students from Cotaco Elementary School watched a movie about all the services the Red Cross provides for disaster victims, learned what items they need for emergency kits, experienced tornado and burning-house simulations, stood inside the truck the Red Cross uses to feed disaster victims and toured an emergency shelter in the basement of Priceville Town Hall.

"Wow! That was awesome," teacher Sharon Moore said after exiting the Decatur Fire and Rescue Safety Trailer after Davies filled it with water-based smoke.

She said the field trip reinforces what she teaches in the classroom and that some of the students are more likely to take the lessons seriously because they live in flood plains or in mobile homes that are especially vulnerable to tornadoes.

James Tardy, Red Cross community disaster education coordinator, said the post-disaster time can be "psychologically messy" for children, especially if they are forced from their homes. But they are much calmer when they know there is a plan.

He said the whole family must know where to meet after a house fire and what extended family member to contact if they get separated during a larger disaster that requires evacuation.

"That's really important after disasters, get families back together," he said.

Tardy said he is available to speak to classes about emergency preparedness and would like to conduct the field trip more often, maybe monthly, if he can coordinate enough volunteers.

To schedule a classroom visit from Tardy, call 353-4891.

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