HOUSTON – The helicopters landed, the fire trucks squirted water and kids learned something about safety.
The week-long Annual Houston Fire Academy finished up Friday night 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 event was held on the Band Practice Field in front of the Houston School Science and Technology.
“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.
“Our volunteers work very hard to make this meaningful and we have as much fun as the kids,” said Jernigan. “The kids will dry off but teaching them the importance of putting batteries in their smoke detector, when daylight savings times changes twice a year, may save their life as a youngster or even later as an adult.”
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 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 Friday 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.”
New this year was Emergency Services Night at Joe Brigance Park Thursday night. The Academy had vehicles from the Houston Fire Department, TransCare Ambulance, Houston Police Department, Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol bring trucks and patrol cars to the event. The Highway Patrol provided their “Don’t Text And Drive” program to kids and parents in attendance.
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.”