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Jack N. Darby Elementary school first-grader Kaitlyn Ramos, 6, practices the "stop, drop and roll" technique used to subdue a clothing fire, with instruction from Fire Inspector Kazayuki Otamaro.
Jack N. Darby Elementary school first-grader Kaitlyn Ramos, 6, practices the "stop, drop and roll" technique used to subdue a clothing fire, with instruction from Fire Inspector Kazayuki Otamaro. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Jack N. Darby Elementary school first-grader Kaitlyn Ramos, 6, practices the "stop, drop and roll" technique used to subdue a clothing fire, with instruction from Fire Inspector Kazayuki Otamaro.
Jack N. Darby Elementary school first-grader Kaitlyn Ramos, 6, practices the "stop, drop and roll" technique used to subdue a clothing fire, with instruction from Fire Inspector Kazayuki Otamaro. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Fire Inspector Kenji Yamashita, left, and a firefighter in full protective gear, both members of Command U.S. Naval Forces Japan Regional Fire Department at Sasebo Naval Base, talk to first-grade pupils at Hario Housing Village's Jack N. Darby Elementary School about fire safety and prevention.
Fire Inspector Kenji Yamashita, left, and a firefighter in full protective gear, both members of Command U.S. Naval Forces Japan Regional Fire Department at Sasebo Naval Base, talk to first-grade pupils at Hario Housing Village's Jack N. Darby Elementary School about fire safety and prevention. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — All last week, base elementary school pupils were falling, rolling, shouting, talking to friends on the telephone, climbing out windows, eating cookies and swigging Kool-Aid.

It’s a perfect learning environment for pupils to absorb critical information about fire prevention and safety, says Gerald Clark, assistant fire chief of Sasebo’s division of the Command U.S. Naval Forces Japan Regional Fire Department.

On Thursday and Friday, Clark and several other firefighters took their traveling fire safety extravaganza on the road to Jack N. Darby Elementary School at Hario Housing Village, providing interactive seminars for kindergarten through sixth grade.

Monday and Tuesday they did the same on the base’s main facility with Sasebo Elementary School pupils, all part of educational programs in conjunction with Fire Prevention Week, which ended Saturday.

National Fire Prevention Week is scheduled annually during the week of Oct. 9, the anniversary of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, Clark said.

Darby first-grade teacher Jennifer Ehret thinks interaction with the firefighters and physically practicing escape from a staged house fire is effective.

“I think these (sessions) are wonderful, especially because they actually get practical experience. So, if anything really were to happen, they would know what to do and not be scared,” Ehret said Friday as her pupils practiced escaping from the mock bedroom.

Once pupils hear the smoke alarm, they learn, for example, if their bedroom’s doorknob is red with heat, they climb out a window. If flames are around the window, they exit through a door. In each instance, they are taught to stay low and to move quickly and directly to their family’s agreed-upon meeting spot outside.

The classes also feature instruction and practice on the maneuver called “stop, drop and roll” for extinguishing fire on clothing.

“And they are having fun, too. That helps familiarize them with what’s taught. They’ll be able to think clearly and know what they have to do [in a real fire],” Ehret said.

“Also, with such a transient group of people as the military, you don’t know which ones might have had this kind of training last year, or ever. They (firefighters ) do a great job.”

Assistant fire chief Clark has coordinated this program in Sasebo’s schools long enough to see pupils in kindergarten attend the seminar each year through sixth grade.

“You can see that each year those who attended the year before know it, and know it better each year. The program works,” Clark said. “That makes me feel good. It feels pretty good to just know that if they are at home and a fire occurs, they know what to do and can escape safely.”

The department also emphasized use and maintenance of smoke detectors as a Fire Prevention Week theme. Clark said statistics show more people are injured or killed by fires in homes with no smoke detectors than in homes with the equipment.

One of Ehret’s pupils, Brittany Kallio, 6, said she now knows what to do if a fire occurs at her home.

“You stop, drop and roll if you’re on fire, and if the door’s on fire you go out the window. If the window’s on fire, you go out the door.”

“And your telephone’s on fire,” Brittany said. “So go you ask the neighbors to use theirs, then call for help.”

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