By Paula NardellaApril 22, 2009
FORT RILEY, Kan. - On April 10, a trailer was parked outside Fort Riley's Middle School Teen Center. In the kid-sized upstairs bedroom, a boy lay on the bed and other kids sat down on the carpeted ledge.
Suddenly, the room filled with smoke.
The door to the room was warm, so a girl undid the window latch and crawled outside onto the small balcony. From there, she went down the ladder to safety, followed by her friends from the teen center.
Firefighter Ivan May stood on the balcony to make sure everyone got on the ladder safely and lead fire inspector, Shawn Sullivan, waited on the ground below to help the kids once they got within arms reach.
Fort Riley Police also were called to the scene, and responded in the DARE car, where kids got to speak into the loudspeaker and work the car's lights and sirens.
Far from being an accident, the "fire" was requested by the teen center as part of post's Month of the Military Child observance, and the Fort Riley Fire Department was more than happy to bring in their fire safety trailer.
"It's a good tool to teach kids what to do," Sullivan said.
The trailer, which is set up to look like a home, offers kids a chance to practice what to do in an emergency. From the door to the trailer, a small living room lies waiting down the hall to the left. In the living room, firefighters can simulate either a tornado or a hurricane for older kids.
April 10, however, was all about fire safety.
Before even entering the trailer, kids talked with Sullivan, asking and answering questions which included, "What about my pet fish'" Sullivan also talked to the youngsters about the importance of having a meeting place away from the house and how to attract attention by waving a blanket should they become trapped in their home during a fire.
After the question and answer session came the moment the kids had been waiting for, and they surged into the trailer.
Making a right after entering the trailer brings a visitor into the "kitchen" where kids who are old enough to cook are taught about kitchen safety.
Younger kids are taken directly upstairs to the "bedroom." The heated door simulates a fire outside of the room, and smoke is pumped in via vents in the walls. Smoke detectors also go off to alert those present that they need to get out of the house.
The process is carefully controlled by a firefighter in the control room, who can see what is going on in the room on a television monitor.