Where There’s Smoke

Karen Brozowski’s Schroeder third-graders cover their ears and get on their hands & knees after the piercing smoke detector goes off in the Fire Safety House trailer. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

You’d be forgiven if you thought Schroeder Elementary was hosting a rib and brisket fest when you heard there’d be a smoke house in their parking lot on Tuesday. But instead, they had a far more important visitor.

Shawn Hugg — from the Troy Fire Department — brought the Fire Safety House to the school and invited class after class to come in and hear fire safety instructions.

After a Question and Answer session, then a demonstration on how loud a typical smoke detector is, the room began filling with a harmless, non-toxic “smoke” (the kind used in rock shows and theatrical productions). And the kids, well, let’s listen in on the Q&A session first. He posed the questions, Schroeder kids answered in unison.

“I’m Fireman Shawn, and we’re going to talk a little bit about what to do and how you know if you have a fire in your house.”

Q: How do we know if there’s a fire in our house?
A: The smoke detector goes off!

Karen Brozowski’s third-graders point out the best place to have a smoke detector in a house with the help of Shawn Hugg from the Troy Fire Department. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

Q: Now does that mean every time the smoke detector goes off there’s a fire?
A: No!

“Maybe Mom or Dad overcooked dinner. Or maybe you took a really hot shower.”

Q: But what do we do every time we hear it; do we stick around and see what’s going on or do we get out?
A: Get out!

“You always want to get out until an adult or whoever’s in charge tells you it’s okay to come back inside. Because we always have to think it’s the real thing just in case it is.”

Q: Why is the smoke detector on the ceiling?
A: Because smoke rises.

Harmless theatrical smoke pours into the Fire Safety House as Karen Bush’s class begins it’s evacuation drill.
(photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

“It would work if it was on the wall, but it’d have to wait until the smoke got all the way down to it.”

“I’ve been a firefighter for almost 20 years. In all my time, houses and buildings that have working smoke detectors, we don’t see people getting hurt because of the fire and the smoke because it gives them time to get out. They call 911 faster so we get there; we’re able to put the fire out and hopefully save more of your stuff.”

Q: How do we know the smoke detector will work when we really need it to?
A: Check the batteries.

Q: Who can tell me why the smoke detector is so loud?
A: In case you’re sleeping.

“When I go to sleep, my eyes are closed so I won’t be able to see the smoke. When you sleep, your nose also goes to sleep so you won’t smell the smoke. But your ears are always listening.”

Q: If you wake up and there’s smoke in your bedroom, do we just walk through the smoke to get out?
A: NO!

“We want to get low and crawl beneath it. Because down low is where the good air is gonna be. So you want to crawl like your dog or cat to get out.”

Q: So when we get outside of the house, who can tell me where to go?
A: Our meeting spot!

“We all want to go to the same place. Because when the firefighters get there, the first question we ask is if everybody’s out of the house. If they say no, we’re gonna go look for you.”

Q: Last thing, when we come to a door, do we just open it or check to see if it’s hot?
A: Check to see.

Q: Do we use the front of our hands or the back?
A: Back.

“The back of your hand is a lot more sensitive. Think about if you hold a cup of hot chocolate or some hot soup in a bowl. You pick up the bowl and take a couple steps before you realize it’s hot. We use our hands every day so they’re a little less sensitive. But with the back of your hand, you’re going to know right away if that door is warm.”

“If you happen to be on the second floor and you can’t go out your door, open your window and yell, scream, make as much noise as you can. Because when we get there and know you’re not outside, we’re going to walk all around your house and see where you are and get you quicker.”

“Now we’re going to practice. We’re not going to push and shove each other. I know nobody wants to get hurt today.”

“So let’s get started.”

And with that, the kids exited orderly and carefully on their hands and knees. Lesson learned.

Even though it had windows for show, the students only used the door to exit. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)