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COVID-19 Sends Sharon (PA) Fire Prevention Lessons Online

Old fire truck

Melissa Klaric

The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


SHARON – Every year, Sharon firefighters enter elementary schools to share fire prevention tips with the students, but COVID-19 prevented that in 2020.

This year, the visit will go virtual, with a video featuring the city’s firefighters.

The video is about 15 minutes long and discusses the same fire safety concepts firefighters teach students each year during October, which is National Fire Prevention Month.

“This year was challenging because usually we have a robust fire prevention and community risk reduction program with the schools,” fire Chief Bob Fiscus said. “And this year, that wasn’t responsible. We couldn’t risk the health of the students or the firefighters.”

Fiscus asked Lt. Nicholas Samson to put together a video.

“It’s our best effort to make sure that community risk reduction and fire prevention isn’t forgotten,” Fiscus said.

As far as anyone’s memory can go back – including a Sharon firefighter with more than 30 years’ service – the city’s fire department has visited Case Avenue, C.M. Musser and West Hill elementary schools during fire prevention month.

Students have looked forward to the annual trips, when school children get to see firetrucks and firefighters in person.

“Everyone was really kind of bummed out at the idea that we weren’t going to be doing it this year,” Samson said. “But all of society has been bummed out for seven months, but, just like everyone else, we’re used to making these accommodations for the greater good.”

The video, produced by Geno Blair at Get 2 Work Productions, was an ideal solution, Samson said.

“It could also be able to be disseminated to the virtual learners, which a good portion of Sharon students are learning from home,” Samson said.

The video reinforces the same talking points and the same fire safety strategies that firefighters teach every year.

“Being that we only see them once a year, I boil everything down to the most basic stuff,” Samson said. “Things like, ‘Get out and stay out,’ ‘Stop, drop and roll,’ ‘Get low and go.’”

In a circumstance where they need to rely on those skills, students can go back to those big messages that firefighters start teaching children in kindergarten.

The video captures three big points, according to Samson, starting with what to do if your clothes catch on fire.

“We talked about the importance of ‘Stop, drop and roll,’ and we talked about covering your face and rolling around on the ground like a hot dog until your clothes are put out,” Samson said.

The second point is what to do if your house is on fire, which, Samson said, is a very different skill set.

“We use the saying, ‘Get out and stay out,’” Samson said. “The big concern is if it happens at night time, we depend on a smoke alarm to get us out of the house.”

Samson said residents should have a smoke alarm in each bedroom and outside the sleeping area. The alarms should be tested monthly and residents should change the batteries twice a year, when they change their clocks. Smoke detectors should be discarded after 10 years.

The third talking point is fire prevention skills.

“Things like, kitchen safety, cooking safety, fireworks safety and candles, matches, lighters,” Samson said. “The skills and knowledge that we can apply so that there is no fire in the first place.”

As the community risk reduction coordinator, that’s the essence of every talk Samson gives.

With their annual presentations, Sharon firefighters follow a script published by the National Fire Prevention Association. The emphasis this year is fire safety in the kitchen.

“Unattended cooking fires are the leading cause of kitchen fires,” Samson said. “We try to encourage people to never leave unattended cooking fires on the stove.”

He would also encourage people to turn off the stove when they leave the house and never cook when they are tired.

With grease fires, water only splashes the flames around. The way to fight those types of fires is to deprive them of oxygen by putting a lid on them.

“Another thing we encourage everyone to do is sleep with your door closed,” Samson said. “This is such a simple thing that everyone could do that could really stop the spread of fire and smoke in their house. A door closed will do a very good job of keeping a fire from spreading.”

Although these points are not on the video designed for elementary students, Samson said they are important fire prevention facts for everyone to learn.

In addition to the annual school visit, Sharon Fire Department holds a fire safety poster contest for the three schools. The winner usually gets to visit the fire station with their teacher and family members. This year, the tradition will continue.

The student and one adult will get to ride around the city in a firetruck, followed by a genuine firefighters’ breakfast at the city fire department.

But even that tradition is affected by COVID-19. Before the student and adult visit they will have to undergo screening, which includes a temperature check and health related questions.

“It’s a really special treat,” Samson said. “The kids love it. The guys get a big kick out having everyone down here, showing everyone around, interacting with the students and getting to make a big breakfast for everyone.”

Follow Melissa Klaric on Twitter and Facebook @HeraldKlaric, email: [email protected].


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