Kid's ride out fires, storms in VFD's safety house
From the outside the trailer looks much like any other except for some decals decorating the sides, but inside is where many local children have already learned what to expect and how to stay calm in the event of a fire or a tornado striking your home; information that can be invaluable at a time of need Hahnville fire Chief Reggie Gaubert tells the Herald-Guide.
“We do a demonstration on tornado safety, kitchen safety, how to call 911,” Gaubert said. “We show them that smoke layers high and we talk about crawling low in smoke and why they need to.
“The back room simulates a bedroom and we fill it with smoke so they have to get down on the floor and crawl to find the door. They’ll feel the door, which is actually hot so they have to find a secondary way out of the room which will be the window.”
Gaubert said the exercise preps the kids for the real thing so hopefully they won’t panic in the future if it occurs in their home.
“It gives them a little insight if there was a fire and they had to go through the window, what to expect,” Gaubert said.
The trailer is one of only 51 of its kind in the United States, Gaubert said, and the $66,000 it cost to build was financed solely through firefighters' assistance grants.
What sets it apart from many other fire safety trailers is it’s inclusion of a burn room which simulates how a sprinkler system works. During the demo of the burn room, a firefighter lights an object of clothing up in the closed off the room near the front of the trailer which has its own sprinkler setup. The kids watch from outside the trailer through large windows that allow them to view what’s going on inside.
A tornado hitting the passing outside of the trailer is also simulated during the emergency presentation. The blinds are equipped with strobe lights to simulate lightening while the power goes out inside the trailer and the weather radio comes on to give a warning of what is going on. During the demo, kids learn the proper way to protect themselves in the event of a tornado, such as where to go and how to cover themselves to prevent injury.
“In the past we never had tornados, now we do,” Gaubert said. “If they hear the sirens they need to get inside, seek a safe place and don’t go back outside immediately after it passes.”
Volunteer firefighter Jeff Raia said that having the knowledge about a tornado can be particularly helpful around schools.
“We actually teach the principals and the teachers where to bring the kids during an emergency; in the hall away from glass,” Raia said. “The principals are really appreciative.
In fact, the HVFD spent a week at Luling Elementary this past school year ensuring every child went through the trailer.
Kellie Edwards took her six year old son Kenneth through the trailer at one of the most recent demonstrations at the East Bank Bridge Park in Hahnville to find it was quite a good disaster simulator.
It’s very realistic and a good learning experience,” Edwards told the Herald-Guide. “It was pretty neat too.”
Kenneth said: “I thought the tornado was real,” he said. “I was happy when it was over.”
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