Firemen from Cattaraugus and Otto rolled out early Wednesday, October 12, to answer a mutual call. Thankfully, they weren't on a mission to extinguish a fire; rather, they were trying to prevent fires from starting in the first place. Their role on this particular day was to conduct the assembly which completed 2011 Fire Prevention activities at Cattaraugus-Little Valley Elementary School.
Cattaraugus First Assistant Chief Bill Ellis, who has headed up fire prevention projects with the school for twenty-two years now, acted as emcee for the occasion. Accompanying him, were local firefighters Steve Griffin and Rick Tackentien, and Chief Duane Moore from the Otto Fire Department. EDITH the Fire Dog, was present, as well.
In fact, EDITH played a starring role during the morning's festivities. To most of the kids, her name already had special significance. They'd learned from their teachers that the letters in the fire dog's name stand for Exit-Drill-In-The-Home. And they understood it meant that EDITH wanted them to practice, with their parents, a predetermined plan for getting safely out of their homes, should a fire ever threaten them.
One group of artists poses with Fire Dog EDITH to show off their winning fire prevention posters.
Cattaraugus Fire Department’s First Assistant Chief Bill Ellis enlists firefighter Steve Griffin to put on full gear, including an oxygen mask to show children that, “Even though a fireman might look scary on the outside, inside he’s just a guy like Steve coming to save you.”
Although a steady downpour prevented the children from getting outdoors to climb around the fire trucks firsthand, they put the time to good use, getting better acquainted with EDITH. Through words and actions, they made it clear that on that particular day and at that particular moment, she was their favorite dog. One youngster confided to EDITH that he'd been working on the "exit strategy" and had convinced his family they all should meet by the sandbox if a fire ever forced them from their home.
EDITH , an exceptionally quiet dog, nodded her approval, and Ellis agreed. "That's great," he said. "This shows you know that part of EDITH's plan is to get family members to agree on a place to meet after they escape from a fire. She wants you to be able to count heads and make sure everyone's out. The sandbox sounds like a great meeting place - as long as it's not too close to the house."
Another of the firemen's goals was to help the children understand that firefighters look very different when dressed in full regalia. Steve Griffin donned the bulky oxygen mask, coat and hat so that the youngsters could see what to expect, if they ever saw a fireman advancing toward them through the smoke of a real fire. "You can see," said Ellis, "With that mask on, we do look a little like space aliens."
"But please, don't hide," he continued. "We might look kind of scary, but inside, it's just us, and we're there to get you out."
Ellis also reviewed with the children the basic rules for dealing with fire. "Stop! Drop! Roll!" the kids chanted, loudly demonstrating their mastery of the three imperatives.
The assembly, organized by Primary/Intermediate Principal Carrie Yohe, was divided into two segments to accommodate the age groups. The first gathering included classes from UPK (Universal Pre Kindergarten) and Kindergarten. The second group was for grades one and two. At the conclusion of each session, winners of the Cattaraugus Fire Department's Fire Prevention Poster Contest were announced and the prize-winners posed with EDITH, while holding their creations.
EDITH, the Fire Dog helped firemen pass out some mementos to help the children remember what they'd learned that day. Included were activity/coloring books and crayons, 9-1-1 stickers, ribbon bracelets and small packs of candy with fire prevention suggestions tucked inside.