MARIETTA - "Smoke goes up," Marietta firefighter Steve Hill said to a group of Phillips Elementary School kindergarteners Thursday morning. "We go..."
"Down!" the children enthusiastically shouted in unison.
That mantra, along with "911;" "stop, drop and roll" and "get out, stay out" are among the lessons Hill and other city firefighters want to instill in the youngest Marietta City Schools students this week and every year during national Fire Prevention Week.
"In the end, we'll probably never know if it helped or not," Hill said outside the Marietta Fire Department's fire and storm simulation trailer, parked behind Phillips Thursday. "But if one little thing keeps a kid from getting hurt, it's worth it."
Fire Prevention Week is a campaign by the nonprofit National Fire Prevention Association. This year's theme is "Have 2 Ways Out."
"Less than 25 percent of American households have developed and practiced a fire escape plan to be prepared in the event of a real emergency," Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of communications, said in a news release. "Having a plan and knowing what to do can make the difference between getting out safely and quickly or not."
At Phillips, Hill emphasized that students and their families should know two ways out of every room in their house, in case one is blocked by the fire. He told the children to start in their own rooms, since that's where they would likely be if a fire started in the middle of the night.
Hill said if parents have questions about escape plans, especially if they're having trouble coming up with alternate routes, they can contact the fire department and discuss it over the phone or even have a firefighter come to the house.
And it's not enough to make a plan; having a home fire drill before the end of October was part of the "homework" Hill gave the students.
Another one was having them memorize their address, so that if the child is the one who calls 911, he or she can clearly tell the dispatcher their location.
"You guys are no longer little preschoolers anymore," Hill told kindergarteners. "You guys are big stuff. You can really help."
Kindergarten through second-grade classes were brought onto the trailer Thursday. Phillips Principal Joe Finley said fire safety material is presented to students in all grades, but the younger ones are targeted in those early years to build a foundation they'll have going forward.
"It's the building block, start out with the real simple fire safety rules," Hill said.
Some of the students Thursday were obviously getting the message.
"You get out and stay out" if your house is on fire, said first-grader Webb Hall.
First-grader Haley Travis said she learned to sleep with her bedroom door closed after Hill explained how that can prevent smoke and heat from spreading. It helped that she and her fellow students got a live demonstration as the back room of the simulator trailer filled with smoke and Hill opened the door to let it fill the rest of the space.
"My favorite part was when the smoke came out ... and it was kind of cool when we got out," Travis said.
Each kindergartener also received a smoke alarm to take home. According to the NFPA, nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in properties without working smoke alarms.
While having two ways out is the week's theme, NFPA's promotional materials include a broad array of topics. The organization announced earlier this week that cooking fires remain the No. 1 cause of home structure fires and the third-leading causes of fire deaths, behind smoking materials and heating equipment.
Between 2006 and 2010, one in every 310 households per year reported a home fire. Across the country, fire departments responded to an average 371,700 structure fires a year during that period. They resulted in an estimated average of 2,590 civilian deaths annually and $7.2 billion in direct property damage each year.
Locally, there were 19 house fires in Washington County, outside of Belpre, Marietta and the Barlow Volunteer Fire Department's jurisdiction, in 2011, along with one deck and one camper fire, Sheriff Larry Mincks said. So far this year, there have been 17 house fires, two porch fires and one chimney fire, he said.
Marietta and Belpre didn't immediately have breakdowns of which calls turned out to be actual fires. However, Marietta responded to 3,180 calls in 2011, including medical runs, hazardous materials incidents and more. The city had taken 2,703 total emergency calls through Wednesday this year, up by more than 200 from the same period in 2011, Chief C.W. Durham said.