'House' debuts in role of fire safety teacher Simulated emergency helps youths learn

June 07, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

The smoke on the second-floor bedroom in this "house" spread so fast that it caused 10 fifth-graders to cough and seek refuge.

"Get low, don't rush, take your time," Sgt. Dennis E. Beard ordered as the children huddled inside the Howard County Fire and Rescue Services' new mobile fire and safety house for a demonstration at Deep Run Elementary School in Elkridge yesterday. "Stay low."

The group of gifted and talented students obeyed, climbing one by one out of the converted trailer's rear bedroom window and down a ladder to call 911.

The simulated emergency was part of a dramatic unveiling of the department's 2-month-old Kids Safe House, a 35 1/2 -foot-long decorated trailer that is part of a new push by local safety officials to teach children how to prevent fire and other household injuries.

The $37,000 house, designed by Serro Scotty R.V. in Irwin, Pa., near Pittsburgh, simulates the three rooms in a house -- kitchen, bedroom and living room -- that are used most and contains telephones so that children can learn how to call 911.

Nontoxic smoke fills the house's mock bedroom, and its door heats up to demonstrate what young people should do in an actual fire -- avoid going out of the hot door and seek an alternative escape route.

Beginning in September, about 3,000 second-graders in county schools will tour the house to learn about fire safety and how to prevent burns and other injuries, said Beard, a county fire education specialist. From kindergarten up, students are taught how to call 911 and other fire safety tips.

"We're hoping by taking the message to the children, we can get into the homes a lot better," Beard said.

In particular, he hopes the safety house can help do something about the rising number of fires set by juveniles playing with matches, lighters and other flame sources. Last year, the department dealt with 90 such cases, Beard said.

Howard County had two fire fatalities last year, the same as in 1994, Beard said. Neither was a child.

The last time children died in fires in the county was on Oct. 30, 1988, when a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old were killed in a fire set by someone playing with matches in a home on Lombardi Drive in Ellicott City, Beard said.

Deep Run students were chosen to tour the safety house first because they held a successful fire safety fair in April and invited the fire department.

Yesterday, 20 students, divided in two groups of 10, entered the house and pointed out safety hazards.

In the miniature living room, they noted that the fireplace didn't have a screen.

Later, Christopher Hendricks, 11, called 911 and told a dispatcher in the nearby control room that a phantom 65-year-old was having difficulty breathing.

Nearby, in the kitchen, the students pointed out that a pot handle was protruding over the edge of the stove, an important point because unattended cooking pots have been the leading cause of fires in the state for four straight years, Beard said.

The demonstration appeared to impress the young people who took part.

"It was scary," Holly Atkins, 11, said of the mock fire. She learned "to get out of the house and stay down low," she said.

Ryan Lancos, 10, said, "Now I know how it feels to be in a real fire. I know what to do."

Pub Date: 6/07/96

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