Fort Mill Times

Firefighters teach kids about safety

Local firefighters have been trying to prevent tragedies before they have a chance to occur by talking to local children about fire safety.

"Accidents occur, but they are easily preventable by using common sense," said Fort Mill Fire Department Chief Ken Kerber.

Firefighters, including representatives of the Fort Mill, Pleasant Valley and Tega Cay fire departments, went to local schools and hosted events to talk about safety tips and stress the importance of exit drills. They also wanted to spread the word about how smoke detectors can save lives.

One of the most important lessons firefighters want children to learn is what they should do - and not do - in the event of a fire.

"They [children] should not hide under their bed or in the closet. They should come to us," said PVFD Chief Paul Blackwelder. "The kids should call to us."

Blackwelder, a 53-year veteran with the force, said if the bedroom door is hot, the window would be the next best place to escape from.

"Families should have a meeting place when getting out of their home," Blackwelder said. "Naturally, they should then call 911 and let us know if everyone is out."

When talking to children, especially the very young ones, firefighters went in street clothes and then put their gear on.

Kerber said many people make the mistake of taking the batteries out of their smoke detectors when they go off in less dire situations, such as smoke coming from their stove, but don't put the batteries back in.

"Smoke detectors can save lives and the batteries should be left in," Kerber said. "This is a great [time] to check your smoke detectors."

Blackwelder said in the case of a fire people should stay out of their house and wants everyone to remember that possessions can be replaced, but people cannot. Kerber wants to remind people to keep a close watch on their kids, avoid placing heaters near boxes, clothes and other flammables, and to stick close to the stove when cooking.