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Teaching fire safety from farm to home

By Staff | Sep 17, 2009

A third-grade girl tries on a fireman's helmet Saturday at the Safety Day Camp in Humboldt. 2009 is the third year all third-graders in Humboldt County have gathered at the county fairgrounds for a program of safety demonstrations.

HUMBOLDT – Safety is no laughing matter, but a lot of third-grade students from around Humboldt County found reasons to smile anyway last Friday.

In fact, squeals of delight could be heard from all around the county fairgrounds as students took turns participating in activities designed to inform them about the hidden dangers of everyday situations.

“It’s a lot of fun to get your classmates wet,” said Lance DeWinter, a Humboldt County firefighter, as a group of students ran in front of the hose he and another group of students were using to try and knock down a plastic barrel. “But in an actual fire it’s a lot of work. So it’s easier for everyone just to be careful and make sure we don’t have to come out in the first place.”

A crash course in fire equipment, including required equipment firefighters need such as fire suits, air tanks and respirators, was one of numerous stations students attended in 10 learning sessions presented during the Humboldt County Safety Day.

Students watched demonstrations and took part in activities to prepare them for hazards ranging from those on the farm to their own homes and situations in between.

A Humboldt County firefighter helps a group of third-graders handle a fire hose Saturday at the Humboldt County Safety Day Camp. More than a dozen volunteer presenters walked students through 10 stages of lectures and demonstrations on how to stay safe around everyday hazards.

“Lets just say that you’re buried in grain, maybe just up to your knees,” said volunteer, Terry Seehusen. “As you can see I can’t lift you up anymore. I’m a pretty big guy, but I’m not going to be able to do it.”

Seehusen’s lesson, demonstrating how a trapped person becomes significantly ‘heavier’ once partially submerged in grain, was an important point of the farm station. Other presenters covered topics from electricity and first aid to bicycle, ATV and home evacuation safety.

“We try to put together a good balance of things that they will encounter and bring together as much of that as possible,” said John Eveland, Humboldt County ISU Extension director. “A lot of counties do a specific farm safety event and we have one in this county as well, but for this event we try to touch on as many things as possible.”

Elementary students from Humboldt’s three middle schools, about 120 in all, took part in the event.

As in other counties, a number of sponsors contributed for a free meal and T-shirt as well volunteering time to help explain why situations students encounter every day can be dangerous.

Larry Beilke, director of marketing for the Humboldt County Rural Electric Cooperative, used a miniature roadway and power lines to show how electricity can turn from a convenience to a danger.

Moving an uncooked hotdog next to a live wire, he showed students how warm, dry air can conduct a spark over relatively long distances and give unwary users a shock. Some places, such as inside a vehicle, are relatively well insulated from a downed or damaged line, but Beilke said it’s always important to think and remain safe.

“If you’re in a car and a power line falls on top you need to jump clear and keep your feet together,” Beilke said. “If you just step out you can become that path to the ground or the electricity can arc from the car to your foot and from your other foot straight to the ground.”

Some presenters’ demonstrations brought up a snicker or prompted a funny anecdote from home, but despite students’ eagerness to have a good time, Eveland noted they were receptive to the message.

“They laugh and they run around a lot, but they really do listen and, as long as they’re not having too good of a time, they tend to learn a lot,” he said.

Contact Kevin Stillman by e-mail at stillman.kw@gmail.com.

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