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Fire safety taught with lean budget
Glynn County Fire Deputy Chief Ray Marat says fire safety is just as important for children to learn as reading, writing and arithmetic.

That's why despite budget cuts to public safety and schools, educators and fire officials are still carving out time to teach students how to prevent and survive fires.

Marat said firefighters go to the schools to teach fire safety.

"We'll send them on request to the schools," he said. "We don't get as many as we used to, but we do still go out."

Marat said over the last several years, resources for such outings for firefighters and schools have been stretched thin.

"We've scaled some of it back because of the budget crunch. And I'm sure it's probably partly some of the state mandates (for the schools) on what they have to achieve academically," Marat said. "Teachers have to use more time going over what the kids have to learn to meet standards."

Just last week, firefighters visited several Glynn County schools, bringing along fire trucks and fire fighting equipment to educate young students about preventing fire and what to do when fires happen, Marat said.

"Usually, we talk about smoke detectors at the home as far as changing batteries and testing them. If you can get a child to go home and ask mom and dad about the smoke detector, it's more likely to get checked," Marat said.

Firefighters go over some of the classics, like stop, drop and roll, but some of the old adages have been revamped, Marat said.

"We teach them that lighters and matches are for adults. We don't say 'don't play with matches' anymore. When you say 'don't play,' all the kids hear is 'do play,' so we just say they are for adults," Marat said.

Firefighters also teach children what to do if their homes catch fire.

"We go over crawling on the ground, and we try to get the kids to go home and talk to their parents about their family plan for if a fire happens - where they plan to meet up outside and how to get out of the house," Marat said.

The department also makes sure children understand that firefighters who may come into their homes in case of a fire are there to help, not harm. In full gear, a rescuer could look frightening to a young child.

"We try to get the kids comfortable with what we look like when we are in our full gear so they know if they see firefighters we're there to help," Marat said.

Sung Hui Lewis, executive director of early academics for the Glynn County School System, says because teachers are under pressure from state and federal guidelines to meet academic standards, they have to get creative and strategically schedule fire safety presentations when students are learning lessons that correlate.

"We would schedule these presentations when the students are learning about social studies or community helpers," Lewis said.

The Glynn County Fire Department's outreach is not limited to schools.

"We have a smoke detector program," Marat said. "If someone wants a smoke detector in their home, through grant money, we can supply them with one. If they need help checking the batteries and installing it, we can come out and do it for them."

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