Eastpointe Deputy Fire Chief Nick Sage demonstrates how  smoke detectors work to the students at the St. Peter’s Lutheran  School and Early Childhood Education Center Oct. 10 during Fire  Prevention Week.

Eastpointe Deputy Fire Chief Nick Sage demonstrates how smoke detectors work to the students at the St. Peter’s Lutheran School and Early Childhood Education Center Oct. 10 during Fire Prevention Week.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Firefighters promote safety for Fire Prevention Month

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published October 14, 2019


EASTPOINTE — Fire Prevention Week was Oct. 6-12, and local fire departments took time to get the word out about fire safety.

The Eastpointe Fire Department expands the week to all of October and spends the month going into the community to make sure people know what to do in a fire emergency. This includes going into local elementary schools and making sure that children are learning how to stay safe through a puppet show.

“(Elementary school students) take it home. They take it home to their parents, and that’s the important thing,” said Eastpointe Fire Marshal Brian Marquardt. “We can talk to adults all day, but when their little son or daughter comes home and says, ‘We need to change that battery,’ or ‘We need another smoke detector,’ it hits home. I’ve had people come up to us and tell us their child watched the puppet show and told them they need a new smoke detector, so we do see the message getting out.”

On Oct. 10, fire personnel visited St. Peter’s Lutheran School and Early Childhood Education Center in Eastpointe. They talked to students as young as 3 years old and as old as second graders about the basics of preventing fires and what they should do in an emergency.

“With the kids, we talked about calling 911 for appropriate emergencies. We talked about staying low if there’s smoke. We talked about match and lighter safety; stop, drop and roll; and fire drills,” said Nick Sage, the Eastpointe Deputy Fire Chief.

They do this through a musical program created by the department using puppets and singalong songs to help kids remember what to do.

“You can see the reaction of the kids to the puppets. It really grabs their attention,” remarked Marquardt. “We want to do anything we can to bring it to their level so they will pay attention and learn something.”

The department was able to bring back the program after not being able to run it for several years.

“We have a team of our guys that volunteer to do it. They enjoy doing it and love putting their enthusiasm into it,” Marquardt said. “We’ve had this program for kids for years. The stage was all built by guys in the department. We took a hiatus from it for a couple of years because we didn’t have the people to support it, but for the last few years, our manpower went up and we’ve been going strong with it again. … First State Bank even gave us a donation to upgrade the sound system and get a new banner for the front.”

Programs like this can make a sincere impact on kids.

“We definitely see the benefits of programs like this,” said Michele Gapski, the principal of St. Peter’s Lutheran School. “We practice our fire drills, and this gives them the additional information of what to do if they are on fire or how to make sure they are safe at home. You can see how constantly repeating the safety measures that we put in place to keep them safe sticks with them.”

Sage said he thinks it’s best to start fire safety education as soon as possible.

“I like the fact that the kids were singing along,” he remarked. “I think all the lessons connected with them really well, especially with the really little kids. We had 3- and 4-year-olds, which is unusual, and they seemed to be taking it all in.”

Gapski said having programs that specifically are designed for young children make a big difference.

“I think these are highly effective, because they use a medium that appeals to children by doing things like using puppets and using music. It presents the lessons in ways that are entertaining and make them memorable,” she said. “We review these lessons in the classrooms and practice drills. Teachers, especially during Fire Prevention Month, do lessons about the different things they have learned and reinforce programs like this.”

Sage wants to remind residents that fire safety isn’t just for kids and that everyone can use a refresher course from time to time.

“Fire prevention and learning never end. We can always use a reminder about how to be safe,” Sage said. “We really want to stress the importance of smoke detectors. Smoke detectors in bedrooms, smoke detectors in hallways, smoke detectors in basements — you can never have enough smoke detectors. Last year was a particularly bad year for the city of Eastpointe with several tragic fire fatalities. I’m happy to say, with increased awareness since then, we are hoping this additional education in the community is helping prevent future fire-related injuries and deaths.”