HAMLET — Dozens of kids turned out at Hamlet Public Library for a crash course on home and fire safety Friday, and even walked away with book sacks filled with supplies for the upcoming school year.
Assistant Chief Calvin White of Hamlet Fire and Rescue said it is among the first of many visits he’ll be making around the county between now and November.
“We do this before school starts back, but October is, for us, fire prevention month,” White said. “Nationally, they have a fire prevention week in October, but locally it’s the entire month. We go to all the schools, churches, we talk to senior citizens and people of all age groups. Today is about mainly home and fire safety.”
Belinda Norton, library assistant of children’s programs, said the fire department does a good job kicking off awareness programs in the weeks leading up to the beginning of a new school year.
“A lot of people, for security, will lock the deadbolts at night and take out the key,” White said. “That might sound like a good idea for keeping intruders out of the house, but suppose you had to get out fast for some reason. You get to the door, and the key has been put out of reach. And there should be clear paths through your house, just like there are here. You should be able to get to doors easily, and they should swing all the way open, not be blocked by anything.”
As for fire safety, White said every major room in a house should have a working smoke detector, and a carbon monoxide detector in any home using carbon-based fuel sources such as wood or kerosene for heat. He added that every home should have at least one fire extinguisher, but that it should be stored away from where cooking is done.
“Why?” White asked, “Because where are most house fires going to start? In the kitchen. And if you keep the fire extinguisher beside the stove that’s on fire, you won’t be able to get close enough to grab it. Keep it somewhere else.”
White asked the kids what number they should call if there was ever an emergency, and most of them shouted out, “9-1-1!” But when he asked how many knew their home addresses, only about five hands went up. White said it’s important that kids learn their home addresses in case they ever have to communicate with dispatchers during an emergency situation.
“And if you ever see a fire, even if it doesn’t look like a big one, you need to get out and stay out,” White said. “That means no going back into the house for Mommy or Daddy, no going back in for a pet. What are you going to do?”
He had the kids repeat the phrase loudly: “Get out and stay out!”
“One a fire starts, you have between two and three minutes to get out of there,” White said. “You should be able to crawl out of your house. You should practice it at home. Practice with the adults in your house. Blindfold one of them and have them get down onto the floor and see if they can crawl to an exit. People always think they can, since they know their house. But you’d be surprised how many people get lost in their own home during a fire because of the smoke.”
Sparky the Fire Dog made a brief appearance during White’s talk, walking into the room where kids were gathered. He waved, causing an outbreak of shy smiles among the younger children present.
During the talk, Monica Terry had filled several bags with freshly popped popcorn, which were given to the children as they passed her on their way out of the library to see the fire truck outside. There, white showed them the kinds of tools firefighters keep on the truck to help battle blazes.
Before they left, the kids received book bags stuffed with school supplies to help start the year off right.
“We are always thankful to the Hamlet Police Department,” Norton said. “Every time we have an event like this, they come and help direct traffic, they’re helpful in so many ways. The fire department and the police department have been very generous with their time and resources.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.