During Fire Prevention Awareness Month, they see about 1,500 children, ranging from toddlers in day care centers up to fourth graders, said GFR Capt. Greg Speck. The firefighters present fire prevention programs based on the children's comprehension levels.
“We have focal points that we cover every year, but we may focus on kitchen hazards one year or what to do if you're sleeping when a fire starts,” Speck said. “We pick a different subject every year. By the time they get into fourth grade, we've covered everything.”
On Thursday, firefighters drove their fire truck to Bethel Day Care Center and introduced themselves to awestruck toddlers and preschoolers.
“We let the kiddos at Bethel climb on the fire truck and explained that fireman are their friends and there to help you,” Speck said. “By getting around them, we want them to see we're their friends.”
Speck said that one child began to cry when he saw a fireman dressed in protective bunker gear wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus.
“Teachers are a huge plus,” he said. “One of the teachers said, “See, he's a fireman, not a bad guy.' Teachers help kids relax.”
If a child is still afraid after being reassured, firefighters back off and give him or her space. They realize young children with over-sized imaginations may think they're aliens, monsters or even Darth Vader.