ELDERSBURG — Coughing students stumbled onto the sidewalk at Linton Springs Elementary School Wednesday afternoon as smoke poured from the open door of the Winfield Community Volunteer Fire Company safety house.
Each of the school's third-grade classes took turns being instructed on basic home fire safety within the mock home before practicing safe evacuation through non-toxic smoke.
"If there's smoke in the house, you have to get down," said third-grader Madison Harvey.
It is important to not only have home evacuation plans in place but also to practice them because reactions need to be automatic if a real fire breaks out, according to Winfield Fire Prevention and Life Safety Chair Debbie Gartrell-Kemp.
"When it's an emergency, you don't think right," Gartrell-Kemp said.
Students went back to class Wednesday with familiar safety tips and new ideas to improve at home.
Third-grader Tori Mackinson said she learned to move rags away from the stove and keep the handles of pots and pans pointed away from the edge. Her classmate Addie Graff said she learned that if she can't find a way out of a room in the house, she should hang something visible out the window like a sheet so firefighters can find her.
Deputy State Fire Marshal and Winfield volunteer Tim Warner said visiting schools is a good way to reinforce good safety habits.
"They take that information back home, and it just refreshes their memories," he said.
The spread of information continues when kids talk to adults about fire safety.
"It's a great reinforcement because the more you practice, the more prepared you are," Gartrell-Kemp said.
Students also saw examples of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and learned how often they should check the batteries — every six months. The safety house is also equipped with sprinklers, which Gartrell-Kemp said will activate only in the room where the heat reaches a threshold to trigger them.
Student Rylee Lownsbury said her home has sprinklers and she has heard her mother worrying that a fire will cause them all to activate.
"I have to tell my mom that if the fire is in one place, only that sprinkler will go off," she said.
The safety house was purchased from Cecil County in 2011, according to Gartrell-Kemp, and Winfield spent 11 months refurbishing it. Volunteers have been visiting the elementary schools with the house since 2012.