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Students learn to Sound off for Safety

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Students fill out an activity sheet with questions related to fire safety at Wintergreen Primary, on Friday.

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By Melissa Gail
For The Daily Reflector

Monday, March 11, 2019

For the students of two second grade classrooms at Wintergreen Primary School, fire safety was probably not their initial idea of a fun afternoon.

However, this was exactly what Greenville-Fire Rescue set out to change on Friday, as the department launched its pilot educational program.

“There are only 11 states in the nation that are piloting and only a handful of departments in each state, so we are very excited to be asked to be a part of it,” said Rebekah Thurston, the fire life safety educator for Greenville Fire-Rescue.

The program, called Sound Off with the Home Fire Safety Patrol, is part of a national curriculum designed to teach fire safety to children in a way that is both entertaining and educational.

The department chose to try out the program at Wintergreen Primary and Eastern Elementary schools. Thurston said these two schools were selected because data showed their enrollment areas had the highest number of structure fire calls.

According to a news release from Greenville Fire-Rescue, 63 structure fire calls occurred within Eastern’s boundaries and 53 in Wintergreen’s, from 2016-2018.

The Sound Off curriculum was developed by leaders in  community risk reduction and was designed specifically for students who are in second and third grade, according to Thurston. The program consists of three lessons, two of which are led by members of the department.

“You can see the kids really enjoy it,” Thurston said. “There are lots of activities and fun games for the kids to play.”

Thurston led the first lesson for these two classes on Friday, which began with her giving the students in the two classes a pre-test to see what they knew. The questions on the test ranged from the importance and the maintenance of smoke alarms to the proper way to react to different sounds that smoke alarms make.

Following the pre-test, Richard Seybert, a firefighter with the department, led the class in a game of Simon Says, in which the students had to imitate a smoke alarm by making the correct noise depending on the situation he gave them. The purpose of the game was to teach the kids how to know the difference between when there is a real fire and when the batteries of the smoke alarm just need to be changed.

After this game, students were able to participate in round where they had to act out what to do if they heard one of these two sounds.

At the end of the lesson, Thurston gave the kids an activity to take back home and complete with their parents. The activity encourages students to go over what they learned as a family and identify if they are in need of any new smoke alarms in their house.

Thurston said parents then will be able to contact Greenville Fire-Rescue if they would like the department to install smoke alarms free of cost. The money for this will be covered by a grant the national program received.

While these two schools were the first to use this curriculum, Thurston said the department will bring the lessons to other classrooms.

“Eventually we would love to get  (the program) in every schoo but we do realize that will take some time,” she said. “We would like to go by risk level, according to what our data says.”

Thurston said the next school on their list is South Greenville Elementary.

Sound Off may be new to Greenville, but it does not stand alone in the city department’s efforts to increase fire safety education. Thurston said the Greenville Fire-Rescue has had many programs in the past, including on called Code Red, which gives also smoke alarms to residents at no cost. Thurston said the Sound Off program is unique because it provides these children with a home safety plan as well.

Thurston said she thinks the Sound Off program has gone well so far and hopes to see it continue to take off.

“You can see how excited the kids are about playing games and about the firefighters being here, but you can tell that they are really actually learning,” Thurston said. “The repetition helps in the games and the fact that we are not just talking to them, but we are playing games with them.”

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