HOUSTON – The helicopters landed, the fire trucks squirted water and kids learned something about safety.
The week-long fifth annual Houston Fire Academy finished up with the traditional field exercises where kids got to man a fire hose, crawl through a smoke house and test their knowledge of fire safety.
“The best part is squirting water and getting wet,” said Julius Dell, 10, of Houston. “We also learned about smoke detectors and that you need to change the batteries when the time changes.”
The kids will dry off but teaching them the importance of putting batteries their smoke detector when daylight savings times changes twice a year may save their life as a youngster or even later as an adult.
“This is the best part of my job,” said Curt Jernigan, Houston Volunteer Fire Chief. “Putting out a fire is important, but preventing one and teaching kids how to respond to a fire or accident is so important.”
The first night of fire academy starts with a test to measure their fire safety knowledge. Kids then go through drills each night and are tested later in the week. Those who show improvement get a certificate and badge saying they graduated from our Fire Academy.
And Jernigan pointed out there is homework, too.
“The kids have to carry home a sheet on fire safety and go over it with their parents who sign it and send it back to us,” said Jernigan. “We’ve always felt getting the parents involved helps teach them fire safety, too.”
The first night taught kids how to report a fire, dial 911 and what to say. Other nights focused on car accidents, fire prevention, home safety and personal safety. And both North Mississippi Medical Center and Air Wing out of Oxford sent their helicopters on medical services night.
“It’s all about safety and we have a little fun, too,” said Jernigan. “It’s easy to teach kids something when they can have a little fun learning it.”
While Fire Academy teaches everything from not to play with matches and how to report a fire, it also teaches kids basic safety.
“We tell them to think, and to look around their house for things that might be unsafe,” said Jernigan. “It is so much better to teach them how to prevent an accident or fire than to have to respond to one.”
The annual Fire Academy is sponsored by donations from local individuals and businesses. It is conducted by county and city firefighters who volunteer to teach children fire safety and introduce them to some of the types of work firefighters perform in the line of duty.
“I want to personally thank those local businesses who donated to this event,” said Jernigan. “I also want to thank our volunteer firefighters who showed up every night to work with these kids.”
The 2013 Fire Academy graduated 31 kids and has now taught fire and home safety to more than 280 youngsters across the community.