Little Lyla Mikolas, 4, of Oak Harbor, Ohio, obediently stood next to the Penta Career Center student dressed in full firefighting gear for a photo Wednesday, but she didn't like it.
She was trembling, even though moments before Kevin Betts had tried to assure her that people inside those heavy coats, big helmets, and weird-sounding oxygen masks were friendly.
“A lot of little kids are scared, especially when we put our mask on,” said young Betts, a senior from Otsego schools in Penta's Public Safety/EMT-Fire Science program. “They lose all idea that we’re still human.”
Children enrolled in Penta’s Early Learning Center in Perrysburg Township visited the high school students’ classroom for a Fire Safety Day during National Fire Prevention Week.
The preschoolers learned the method of “low and go” for escaping a smoke-filled room, with Penta students flapping a big gray blanket above them as they crawled on the floor. The classic “stop, drop, and roll” also was introduced, for “if your clothes caught on fire,” said Parker Nowak, 5, of Rossford.
Penta junior Tyler Kwiatkowski of Genoa said there were some tricks to getting the information through to little people with such short attention spans.
“You be very enthusiastic with them,” he said.
Sparky the Fire Safety Dog mascot was on hand Wednesday to drum up that enthusiasm, on loan from the township. The mascot costume is equipped with an mp3 player that plays music and recites safety information.
“Sometimes it’s easier for a child, even adults, to relate to a mascot,” said Keith Feeney, Sr., fire inspector with Perrysburg Township Fire Department, who brought Sparky for the event.
Mr. Feeney also brought something invaluable for the preschoolers: 30 smoke detectors for them to take home.
Kids also got their own fire helmet, a red plastic version of the real one Kevin Betts let them try on.
“It was a little heavy,” admitted Conner Coykendall, a 5-year-old from Maumee.
Senior Paige Cotterman coordinated the event because she remembered when her father came to her grade school as a volunteer with the North Baltimore Fire Department. She said she believed that the Early Learning students needed the same educational experience.
Jim Neu, a volunteer firefighter with the township fire department and father to Brody in the early learning program, brought his gear to the school to help familiarize his son’s classmates with emergency situations and personnel.
“We see the worst of people during accident times. ... This is the most rewarding part,” Mr. Neu said of teaching opportunities.
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-356-8786.