SKFR stumps for safety

If a big banana that sounds like Darth Vader comes into your house one night, you should definitely be worried — but about a fire, not the strange guest.

That was the message delivered by South Kitsap Fire and Rescue personnel Tuesday as they visited Orchard Heights Elementary School to teach children the importance of escape plans and other ways to stay safe during a house fire.

“With all his gear on, he looks and sounds kind of scary, doesn’t he?” said SKFR Battalion Chief Mike Wernet, explaining that the “big banana” with the heavy breaths is what a firefighter would look like if he or she came into your house to save you during a fire.

Of course ideally, before the firefighters arrive, a smoke alarm in the house would have alerted family members to the danger so they could exit using their escape plan, Wernet said.

“These kids can be the family hero by creating one,” he said, explaining that the focus of Fire Prevention Week this year is escape plans, and SKFR is visiting South Kitsap School District’s 10 elementary schools and challenging each child to create one.

As an incentive, Wernet said the fire district will be returning to the schools next month to host an ice cream party for each class that has 100 percent of students returning a completed escape plan to the teacher.

“We originally thought we would just host one class per school, but we realized that would not be fair if several classes returned all of their plans,” Wernet said, explaining that the SKFR professional firefighters’ union stepped in and agreed to pay for the ice cream so all the classes could be rewarded.

Wernet said an escape plan should include two means of exiting each room, which usually include the door and a window. The plan should also designate a meeting place for everyone to gather outside, he said.

The importance of creating an escape plan was unfortunately demonstrated by a tragic fire last year that killed a young girl in Navy Yard City, Wernet said.

Instead of hurrying outside, he said, the victim ran to her mother’s room, which is an understandable response by a child in an emergency. However, by discussing escape plans ahead of time, parents can emphasize the importance of getting out of the house above all else.

And while emphasizing escape plans was the overall goal of each visit, Wernet said the firefighters definitely tailor the information to the audience.

“The older kids, we go into more detail about the escape plans,” he said. “But with the younger kids, it’s all about the truck. They just want to see our big, red tool box.”

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