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Downers Grove Third Graders Complete Fire & Life Safety Training

Downers Grove Fire Department Public Education Officer, Marsha Giesler, finds the month of May a busy one. That’s because it brings closure to this year's Fire and Life Safety Program the department provides to local third graders. With firefighters and paramedics, Giesler travels to area grammar schools to complete this training program.

On Thursday, May 17th, in an ambulance and firetruck, they arrived at St. Joseph School in Downers Grove. Giesler invited the third graders to tour both vehicles. Students met one on one with paramedics and firefighters and learned about the tools used in emergency situations. They left with an understanding of the various firefighting positions on the firetruck and the particular jobs during an emergency call.

This final school visit allows the paramedic to explain medical emergencies and what paramedics might do to alleviate fear. “Our goal for this lesson is to have the children meet emergency personnel in a non-emergency situation and realize that they are dads and moms just like their parents,” Giesler said. She explained that in an emergency situation, responders don’t have a lot of time to explain everything.

These tours and discussions are a culmination of Giesler’s six-visit program, in which she provides fire safety and injury prevention lessons that build upon each other. The lessons might touch on first aid for burns, basic behavior should a smoke alarm go off, or what information to share with the 911 operator.

A favorite for Giesler is the first-aid lesson. “We know of three third grade students who actually performed the Heimlich maneuver because of this lesson,” she said. Reflecting on the program, she credits St. Joseph School’s retiring third grade teacher, Angelita Gaffud for this addition to the program. “The whole reason we have the Heimlich lesson is because of Miss Gaffud. She asked me years ago if I had time to talk about what to do if someone is choking, so we incorporated it into our program,” she said.

Homework is created with both the children and parents in mind. It is the department's hope that the family completes the assignments together. For example, the November assignment looks for household hazards.

“For every lesson, we leave a small reward for students who complete their assignment," said Giesler. As an example, Giesler might provide teachers with erasers to give out upon completion of the home hazard check. “This small token reminds students to erase home hazards,” she said. She added that the department has received thank you notes from parents who uncovered home hazards during these assignments.

The finale for this third grade program is hands-on fun involving water and a fire hose. Firefighters and paramedics provide each student with a hands-on lesson using the fire hose. Witnessed by Giesler, she adds, “The firefighters and the third graders equally enjoy this final lesson!”

St. Joseph third grader, Jaci Budrick was excited after working with the fire hose. “It was very fun.” With a smile, she added, “We learned to use that ‘thing-a-ma-jigger’ on that powerful fire hose!”

Giesler explained, "Our Downers Grove third graders will be better prepared in emergency situations and we hope that they find themselves more comfortable with our firefighters and paramedics."

Giesler has built a national reputation as an expert in her field. She was named the best fire safety educator in the U.S. in March by the National Fire Protection Association.

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