The group of fifth-grade boys was led into the mock kitchen and asked to identify potential hazards.
One by one, the boys pointed out the dangers: food packages stored on top of the stove, gasoline kept on the kitchen floor, electric cords tangled across the floor, open prescription bottles that were within reach.
Next door, the boys could hear fellow classmates escaping the bedroom that was quickly filling up with fake smoke.
The Dixon Elementary students were participating in the Survive Alive Program, an educational atmosphere to teach children lifesaving skills through hands-on learning.
The program, hosted inside the Brookfield Public Safety Building, uses a model house to teach children how to identify dangerous situations and to practice fire safety.
Hands-on fire drill
"This program is similar to a fire drill," said Susan Weiss, public education specialist for the Brookfield Fire Department. "This gives us an opportunity to see what the kids already know and what they need to work on."
With guidance and instruction from multiple firefighters, children learn the basic skills needed to survive a house fire.
In the smoke-filled bedroom, students were crawling on the floor. They approached the bedroom door, tested the doorknob with the back of their hands, pretended it was hot to the touch, and exited through the window by an escape ladder. Once safely outside the house, the children regrouped at a meeting point across the street (only a few feet from the house) and proceeded to call 9-1-1 from a pay phone.
"They love learning about all this," said Angie Malett, the class' fifth-grade teacher. "They like being with the firefighters and enjoy doing all of these activities with them."
A history of Survival
The Survive Alive Program began in 1996, after being privately funded by multiple community members and organizations.
The free program, designed for third- and fifth-graders, is used throughout the year by all elementary schools in the district, Weiss said.
"In third grade, so much of the fear (of fire) comes from not knowing about fire," she said. "The program teaches them what to do in case of an emergency."
Repeating the program in fifth grade is also important to keep students alert, Malett said.
"I think that at this age, they're home alone more often so it's good to have this information refreshed," she said.
For information about the program, call Weiss at (262) 787-3643.
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