COVINGTON — A tradition for Covington students, the Firefighter Phil program returned to start off the week with an interactive lesson on fire safety.
“We’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Chris Haines, president of Marias Technology and a lieutenant firefighter from Covington Fire and Rescue, said.
This was the Firefighter Phil program’s first year at the new Covington K-8 School, held in the new gymnasium, but it targeted the same grades as past years — kindergartners through sixth grade students.
“It’s a combination of learning through some magic,” Haines said.
In addition to magic tricks, the Firefighter Phil program also utilized puppets and ventriloquism to help the kids both laugh and learn about what to do in the case of a fire.
“It really helps the lesson stick,” Haines said. “For us, it connects with the kids better than anything we’ve ever done.”
“It keeps them involved,” Fire Chief Bart Weer said.
In addition to learning lessons on fire safety, the kindergartners went home with free smoke detectors, thanks to donations from Marias Technology, which has been able to give away over 1,200 smoke detectors since their contributions to the program began.
Though the namesake of the program — Firefighter Phil — is one of the original puppets utilized in the lessons 20 years ago, the fire safety instructions were led by Tom Rozoff, or “Magic Tom.”
Rozoff first introduced students to a puppet named Cosmo, “the boy from outer space,” who taught them the importance of having a smoke detector in the home and making sure it has working batteries in it.
“A smoke detector will not help us at all if it doesn’t work,” Rozoff said. “Our firefighters want us to put a new battery in twice a year.”
Rozoff encouraged the students to put together a hazard kit for emergencies such as if the power goes out, but added that it is not something that they should try to retrieve if there is a fire in the house.
“If there’s a fire, there’s nothing we get,” Rozoff said. “The only thing we get is out of there.” Rozoff added, “We don’t try to put the fire out … Get out and stay out.”
With a game called “Helpful or Harmful,” Rozoff went over helpful tips in the case of a fire, such as knowing at least two ways to get out of their room and their home. People should also feel the door of the room they are in to see if it feels warm. If it feels warm, then that means that the fire is on the other side of it and the person should use their second way out.
Rozoff also encouraged establishing a family meeting place in the event of a fire, so their parents and first responders to the scene will know that they escaped the fire and are not still inside the home.
If they get caught in a fire, the students should “stay low and go,” Rozoff said, explaining that smoke rises, so by staying low to the floor, “You can see better and breathe better.”
The students were also reminded to stay calm in a fire.
“Stay calm, and you’ll remember out fire saftey rules,” Rozoff said.
For more safety tips, visit www.officerphil.com.
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336