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Local Daycare Children Get Hands-on Lesson in Fire Safety


Rick Boston

Martinsburg Volunteer Fire Company Chief Randy Acker and Captain Brandon Weber show the kids at Lil' Focht's Daycare what a firefighter in full gear looks like. Acker said it is important to show young kids what a firefighter in costume looks like so they won't be afraid and run away from them in the event of a fire.

In the event of a residential fire, preschool-aged children are the most vulnerable when it comes to suffering serious injuries or worse.

According to the American Red Cross, children under the age of 5 are twice as likely to die in a house fire than the rest of the population.

A major factor in these statistics are that children under the age of 5 do not react to a dangerous situation the same way an older child, or adult would.

Young children tend to hide from danger, and in a fire, the consequences can be lethal.

When it comes to teaching fire safety and what to do in the event of a fire, a different approach is needed for younger children.

Martinsburg Volunteer Fire Company Chief Randy Acker gives fire safety lessons throughout the year, and on Wednesday, June 12, he was at Lil' Focht's Daycare in Martinsburg to teach fire safety to the younger kids.

Acker said teaching children as young as 2 about fire safety and what to look out for should be as interactive as possible.

"There is a lot of things a child involved in a fire would see that would be strange and scary for them," Acker said.

Acker said that one of the things he does is show the kids what a firefighter in full costume and mask looks like, so they wouldn't run away from one trying to save them.

"If they have never seen a firefighter wearing a mask and not being able to see his face, a child could get scared and run away from him, and back toward the fire," he said.

To familiarize the kids with what a fully outfitted fireman coming toward them would look like, Captain Brandon Weber of the Martinsburg company donned the full gear, complete with everything he would have on when entering a burning building.

Acker explained everything Weber was wearing and why it was important for him to have it on. Weber then got on all fours and walked among the kids, letting them touch him as he passed.

"This allows the kids to see that there is a person behind that mask who is coming in to help them," Acker said.

The kids learned lessons they can take home and share with their families, such as the importance of having an escape plan and to have a common meeting area outside the house after fleeing a fire.

"It is important for everyone to be in one place when the fire department gets there," Acker said. "It lets us know either everyone made it out or that we have to find them."

Acker said younger kids may not be able to understand everything he is telling them, but that they do retain some of the important information.

"You would be surprised," he said. "Even if they pick up a little bit of what we teach, they remember it."

Daycare owner Cindy Focht said she goes over fire safety with the kids every month as well as having a fire drill.

Focht said the approach Acker took in teaching the children will help them trust a firefighter coming in to help them.

"A lot of my children are afraid of anyone in costumes," she said. "The biggest thing these children learned today was not to be afraid of a firefighter costume. I was amazed at how the kids were touching him as he went around in full gear. That was a very big thing that he did."

Focht said she believes it is never too early to teach kids about fire safety, and that having real firemen there to teach the kids gives them another perspective.

"This was a big asset for the fire company to come here," she said. "Me talking about it is different than them actually seeing it hands on. I am so grateful they came."


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