Fire Safety

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 8, 2010

By the time visiting children from a Batesville Elementary School first grade and kindergarten class had all practiced the “Stop, drop and roll” drill for Batesville firefighters Harvey Flowers (left) and Jordon Ethridge, they insisted it was their teacher’s turn. Joyce McKinney was a good sport and rolled, much to the delight of children. The Panolian photo by John Howell

On days off, firefighters preach gospel of fire safety

By John Howell Sr.

Fire Prevention Week programs have changed in recent years for youngsters who visit the Batesville Fire Department.

Fire and Life Safety Officer Rip Copeland said firemen still let the children see the firetrucks with lights flashing and sirens howling, but they also try to drive home the simple drill, “Stop, drop and roll.”

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Copeland watched as two young fire fighters — Harvey Flowers and Jordon Ethridge — first showed youngsters from Batesville Elementary School first grade and kindergarten classes a video about how to stop, drop and roll. Then they demonstrated.

Flowers and Ethridge are both full-time, paid firefighters with BFD, Copeland said, but they volunteer on their time off to teach the children during Fire Prevention Week.

“Harvey and I love doing this,” Ethridge said.

After the video, the two firemen demonstrated, dropping to their knees, covering their faces with their hands and then flopping onto a padded mat placed on the floor of BFD Fire Station One. The children loved it, too.

Then the kids took turn, two at a time on the large mat, stopping, dropping, rolling until laughter filled the room. Of course, once the rolling frenzy had started, the firemen orchestrated the students into chanting for their teachers to join in. Several did, much to their students’ delight.

Copeland, who joined BFD in the late 1990s, said the department has seen a significant decrease in the number of calls to residential fires in Batesville city limits during his career. “I think it’s public education, placement of smoke detectors in homes and fire codes,” Copeland said.

After the stop, drill and roll drill, Flowers and Ethridge demonstrated fire fighter’s turnout gear.

Copeland said it is important for children to be unafraid of fire fighters’ appearance at fires. They could conceivably become so frightened at the appearance of a fully-suited fire fighter coming to rescue them that they might hide instead of making themselves apparent in a smoke-filled room, Copeland said.

As one firefighter suited up, one piece at a time, the other firefighter told the students the name of the article and described its role in protecting firemen.

“They’re learning that (they are) just tools,” Copeland said. “Used to be some of them were scared to death.”