West Central Elementary kindergarteners stood in awe next to the shiny red fire engine on Wednesday morning, Jan. 26, as they received a visit from the Rome-Floyd Fire Department as part of the Friendly Firefighter program.
The kids excitedly raised their hands to ask questions of the firefighters. Enthusiastic “oohs and ahhs” were in full unison as the firefighters revealed different compartments of the truck, explaining the use of the equipment.
Some of the firefighters were in full turn-out gear as they spoke to the children. Assistant Principal Jennifer Uldrick said that seeing them in full gear is one of the most significant aspects of the program.
“As part of their social studies standards, kindergarten students are required to learn about the work that many individuals such as doctors, police officers, and firefighters do within our community,” Uldrick explained. “Our hope is that our youngest students will not only understand the work that our local community helpers do, but that they will recognize them as safe and trusted individuals if an emergency does arise.”
Fire Safety Educator Linda Patty expressed her amazement in watching the excitement in the kids’ eyes.
“It’s very important that we take the time to interact with the kids and let them feel safe in a non-emergency situation,” she explained. “It's all about getting them familiar with the firefighters and how they’re going to look so that the kids don’t run from them. It’s important that they know the firefighters are their friends and community helpers.”
Patty explained that the Friendly Firefighter program also consists of teaching the kids how to “get low and go” to escape a smoky room.
She said that the firefighters always love the interaction with the kids and really cherish the opportunity to be surrounded by excitement and positivity.
A fire drill was conducted that same morning at WC as part of their own fire safety exercise.
“At West Central, and at all RCS schools, we conduct fire drills on a monthly basis,” Uldrick explained. “We want to ensure that all of our students and staff members are fully prepared to evacuate safely in the event of a fire within the building.“
Uldrick explained that in addition to the Friendly Firefighters program for youngsters, WC fifth grade students also participate in the fire safety program provided by the Rome Fire Department each year.
“Fire safety educators visit the students once each month,” she said. “Students learn about safety in the home, work with their family to create an escape plan in case of fire, and learn how to safely exit the home as well. It is our hope that, once we can safely do so, our fifth graders can share what they learn with our younger students.”
As each kindergarten group closed their time at the hook and ladder with the firefighters, they donned their red firefighter hats and smiled for photos.
“Our kindergarten students were so excited to have the local fire department visit this morning,” Uldrick said, “and they are looking forward to a visit from the police department on Friday! At West Central, our PBIS expectations include ‘Ready to Learn, Courteous, and Safe.’ We are grateful for our community helpers that help to keep us safe each day!”