Kids learn CPR, fire survival and refusal skills at Level Fire Company open house

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Donyh Barnes, age 4, and Brecken Morse, who is 4-and-a-half years old, went through the steps of performing CPR, using chest compressions and a breathing mask, on a mannequin under the tutelage of Jessica Morawski, a firefighter and IVT (Intravenous Therapy Technician) with the Level Volunteer Fire Company.

The boys, whose families live on Aberdeen Proving Ground, practiced on a child mannequin. Toddler and adult-size mannequins lay nearby.

They were among the more than 400 people who visited the Level firehouse, which is west of Havre de Grace, Sunday afternoon for a National Fire Prevention Week open house. Other volunteer fire companies throughout Harford County opened their firehouses to the community during the weekend in honor of National Fire Prevention Week, which started Sunday, and more will be open this coming weekend and next.

Families that visited Level could see firefighters cut open a car to rescue trapped occupants, set another car on fire and quickly put it out, take a ride in a fire truck with the lights flashing and siren blaring, try on firefighter turnout gear, learn CPR, practice getting out of their house, if there is a fire, get a child identification card made courtesy of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, receive screenings for multiple health issues courtesy of University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health’s Health link Community Outreach, and develop “refusal skills” in case children and adolescents are offered drugs.

The company provided food and drink, and Greyson Ely, 3, of Churchville, won a raffle to be named “fire chief for the day.”

The fire truck rides were very popular, especially for children.

“He had a blast,” Army Capt. Alex Morse, said of his son, Brecken’s experience.

The open house was designed to be educational, as well as fun, for families. The safety skills were something even children as young as 4, such as Brecken and his CPR partner Donyh, can learn and use.

Morawski cited situations when a child is with an adult who is having an emergency, and then the child must assist.

“It would be important for them to know first aid and CPR to help somebody in a time of need,” she said.

Kimberly Barnes, Donyh’s mother, called the CPR instruction “awesome.”

“Everyone should learn these skills — you never know what could happen in case of emergency,” she said. “I think it’s very important.”

Organizers said they hoped families could learn at least one safety lesson, such as closing their bedroom doors at night to prevent the spread of a fire, checking smoke detectors regularly or having an escape plan in case of emergency in the home.

“We just want them to learn something, take it home with them and practice it with their family,” Rhonda Hinch, an assistant chief for Level and the company’s coordinator for public education, said.

‘Refusal skills’

Isabel Erby, of Havre de Grace, and her three children — Layla, 12, Ryan, 9, and Noah, 5, listened as fire company president Sandra Gallion educated the children on what to do if offered drugs, using candy as a stand in.

Gallion ran the children through different scenarios, such as what to do if a stranger offers them candy, and what they would do if the stranger said it was all right to give them candy because their parents said it would be all right.

Gallion urged them to “run away and tell an adult,” if they get such offers.

“I like how they’re educating kids, not just giving them a fun day,” Erby said of the open house. “There’s education behind it.”

Erby also praised how the company “showed a more personal side” to being part of a fire company, as visitors could interact with Level members and their children, who are also involved in the firehouse.

“Hopefully, that will encourage [my children] to get involved in volunteering,” Erby said.

Jessica Morawski and her husband, Christopher, are both members of Level. Her 6-year-old son, Ayden, joined other children in trying on firefighter gear. She said her son has a personal set of gear, plus he helps out around the firehouse.

“He helps with cleanup, he helps with anything around here,” she said.

Sandra Gallion’s son, Nolan III, was a member of Level and the Susquehanna Hose Company of Havre de Grace. He died Jan. 25, 2015 at age 24 from a heroin overdose after years of battling an addiction to prescription drugs that morphed into heroin addiction.

Nolan Gallion’s death spurred many people in Harford County to sit up and take notice of the county’s growing heroin epidemic, not the least being County Executive Barry Glassman, a family friend and former Level VFC firefighter.

Sandra Gallion kept a photo of her son in his firefighter gear on the table Sunday as she talked with families about developing “refusal skills” to steer clear of drugs that are offered to young people.

She said later that helping families avoid drugs has become her passion. Her family is among others in Harford County that have lost children to the ongoing opioid addiction scourge and been speaking out about the dangers of addiction in recent years.

Gallion said she spends money each year, money she can no longer spend on a birthday gift for her son, and spends it on materials such as candy to educate other families about addiction and give others “the gift of life.”

“If I impact one person doing this, it’s made it all worthwhile,” she said.

Fire safety

After being lit with a flare, the materials inside the Chevrolet four-door car spouted white smoke that quickly turned gray and black as flames consumed the materials and the body of the car.

Visitors watched, gasped and took photos and videos with their phones as the car burned during the demonstration. People gasped as a hole popped open at the top of the windshield and a flame came through.

A Level fire truck came into the demonstration area, its siren blaring. Firefighters in full turnout gear, including breathing masks, jumped out, brought a hose to the burning car, waited for the water to come through, and then sprayed it down.

Clouds of smoke obscured them, and spectators sitting on bleachers scattered as the smoke reached the crowd. Small particles of black ash also wafted down.

Rosalie Bosley, 6, later said she was “just a little bit” scared during the fire. Her mother, Erica Bosley, of Aberdeen Proving Ground, said the demonstration was “very interesting and educational.”

“I’ve never seen a fire up close and personal like that,” Erica Bosley said.

Mother and daughter had enjoyed their day so far, with fire truck rides and food provided by the fire company. Rosalie, like many other children, wore a plastic fire helmet.

They then headed over to the fire prevention trailer, operated by Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire & Emergency Services, to educate people about how to get out of their house in a fire.

Alison Little, the Maryland State Firemen’s Association Miss Fire Prevention, talked with Rosalie and her mother in a room set up like a child’s bedroom.

“We have to get out, stay out and call 911, that’s your job, all right?” Little asked Rosalie.

Little asked Rosalie to find two ways to get out, and the girl pointed toward an open trailer window and a door on the opposite end of the room.

Escape

Clouds of smoke — actually water vapor — came into the room under the door. The vapor filled the bedroom, and Little and Rosalie got down and crawled under the rising vapor toward the door.

They checked it for heat, using the backs of their hands. They determined it was not safe to get out that way and moved back toward the window.

Little encouraged Rosalie to put a blanket under the door to keep smoke out, head toward the window and wave a shirt or flashlight, and call for help.

Rosalie climbed out of the window into the arms of fire inspector Roger Lyons. Little asked her if, once she gets out, should she go back into her house for a family member, pet, even her favorite toy. The answer, in each case, was “no.”

“Your job, remember, is to get out safe,” Little said.

Little guided families through the trailer, along with Lauren Maines, first runner up for Miss Harford-Cecil Fire Prevention, and Madelyn Patrick, Miss Fire Prevention for the Singerly Fire Company near Elkton.

Lyons, the fire inspector, estimated that 200 to 300 people had come through the trailer. Little said many children would “rattle off” what they learned.

“They all seem to be really engaged, so you hope that it sticks,” she said.

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