LEWISTOWN – Children at the Southend Summer Playground group had the opportunity to learn firsthand about emergency responders and police officers during an event held Monday morning at the Lewistown Intermediate School.
Gina Moore, a group volunteer, said the group is always looking for a way to get the kids learning while having fun.
“For this summer we were looking for different things to bring to the program,” Moore said. “We thought this is something that is always relevant and almost always interesting for kids.”
The group consists of 55 kids ranging from ages 6 to 10 and Moore said having the equipment there and its purposes explained to them really helps them to better understand what could happen in an emergency situation.
“This is great for them to see the equipment like this now so that, heaven forbid, they are in an emergency situation they may not be as scared,” Moore explained.
Equipment at the event included a Fame EMS ambulance, the ladder truck from United Fire and Rescue, the fire engine from Brooklyn Hose Co., the rescue truck from City Hook and Ladder, a squad car from the Lewistown Police Department, and the Mifflin County Mountain Firefighters were there with Smokey Bear. Each group had the chance to explain a particular piece of equipment’s purpose and many of the emergency responders helped relay the message that there is no need to be afraid of them in an emergency.
John Wagner, of Brooklyn Hose Co., made sure to stress to the group that they should not run away if they see a firefighter coming.
“I cannot stress this enough to you,” Wagner said. “We are there to help you whether that is in a burning building or at the scene of an accident.”
Steve Knudson, representing the Lewistown Police Department, said the relationship between the department and children is important.
“We want them to know that we are there to help them and to dispel the fear,” Knudson said. “I want the kids to know that they can approach a uniformed officer without fear knowing that they will help them no matter what.”
When the kids were done looking and learning about the equipment, Interim Lewistown Borough Fire Chief Bob Barlett had a firefighter suit up to show the kids that they are not “scary monsters.” Jerrit Stall, junior firefighter with United Fire and Rescue, put on the all the gear that he is required to wear inside a burning building. Barlett started by asking the kids if Stall looked scary without the equipment on, they all replied no, and Barlett kept asking that question until Stall had all of the equipment on.
“The key thing to remember kids is, no matter what he looks like, he is still your friendly neighborhood firefighter,” Barlett said. “In the smoke and darkness of a fire he may look and sound scary but he is there to help.”
Stall showed the kids how he would enter a room in a burning building by walking on hands a knees, and shook the hands of kids to help them with any fear they may have.
Both Barlett and Moore said the day seemed to go very well.
“They seemed to enjoy themselves,” Barlett said. “The kids got to look and touch different equipment, while learning.”
Moore said hopefully next year they can have the equipment come back and get even more hands-on experience with it.
“Who knows? This event could foster the next group of emergency responders,” Moore said.