A field trip to the fire station with my boys’ preschool class turned into an experience that I didn’t quite expect.
Of course they had been talking about it for days, all aflutter about how cool it was going to be there. A firefighter had already visited Luke’s class at school, and showed the kids his uniform and gear. The fire engine was also parked outside for the class to see. When I picked Luke up that day, I asked if he’d been scared of the fire fighter because some kids can be frightened by the masks. In true Luke fashion he responded, “Why of course not!”
Soon after that, his older brother’s class took a field trip to the fire station and siblings were allowed to come. So I packed up my two little preschoolers and headed to the Company 9 Harwood/Lothian Fire Station. To be honest, I was a little giddy myself. I’d never actually visited a fire station!
Upon arrival, the teachers and parents herded the children into the fire station for our personal tour. The kids “oohed” and “ahhed” their way around, seeing where the firefighters slept, cooked, ate, played Ping Pong and even the gym where they exercised. I was fascinated, as were most of the other parents on the tour. We asked more questions than the kids.
The tour ended in a large garage where, unfortunately, the fire engine was missing, since it was being used at another fire station that day. But the kids were happy enough touring the ambulances and other small firefighting vehicles on site. After a bit, you could tell their little eyes were starting to glaze over. Most of the information was going in one little 4-year-old ear and out the other. But then something really cool happened.
The firefighters asked the kids to sit on the floor and one of the firefighters proceeded to put on all of his official gear, including a hood and mask hooked up to an air tank. As he was doing this, the other firefighter started talking to the kids about what they should do if their house was on fire. This certainly got them re-engaged as they all started spouting off various doomsday scenarios. The firefighter took it like a champ, answering most of their questions.
He then asked if any of the kids had a “fire plan” at home, and I was shocked to see my son, James, raise his hand. We had actually discussed a plan over dinner the week before, which was the night after the fire fighter had visited Luke’s class. I kept it simple, trying not to scare them, but we decided that if the boys woke up and there was smoke, they were to crawl on the floor, yelling for us, and come down the stairs and out the front door immediately. We told them not to wait for Mom and Dad, we would meet them outside. If there happened to be fire downstairs or outside their room, they were to stay on the floor near their window yelling for help.
James repeated this plan verbatim to the firefighter, even the part about not crawling down the stairs head-first but instead, “slide down on our tuckuses.” I was super impressed he remembered it! The firefighter went on to specify exactly what the kids should do in case there was a fire in their home, giving them simple, easy-to-follow instructions.
Next the firefighter who was gearing up turned on the oxygen tank which made a loud Darth Vader-like whooshing sound, and proceeded to crawl on the floor up to the group of kids. The other firefighter explained to them that this is probably what they would see if they were actually in a fire — a firefighter with his mask on and loud air tank, crawling on the floor towards them. The kids watched wide-eyed as he reminded them that this was nothing to be afraid of, but he was there to rescue them and that if they should ever be in a fire and hear that sound or see a firefighter coming at them like this, they should wave their arms and yell for him.
He encouraged the kids to never hide when they’re in a fire, but stay near a window if they can’t get outside so they can yell out the window for help. I actually got choked up when he told them, “We WILL come through the window to save you.” The firefighter then sat up and took off his mask and tank to remind them that underneath all of that, he’s a firefighter there to help them.
What a great experience for those kids. I left feeling grateful that my boys are more prepared for a fire and that they had the chance to meet some true heroes, not just the ones in comic books.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.