The Village of Oak Park | 123 Madison St.  Oak Park, IL 60302 |

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Students invited to adopt a firefighter

When the first graders at Longfellow School officially adopted an Oak Park firefighter, little did they know that one of the first lesson’s message of get out and stay out would play a key role when a fire swept through an apartment building this fall in east-central Oak Park.

One of the young students who had participated in the Fire Department’s Adopt a Firefighter program at Longfellow Elementary School told her teacher that she thought of everything the firefighter had taught her as she was running out of the building.

That’s why she knew what to do and why she wasn’t scared, she confidently told her teacher after the harrowing experience.

With such tangible evidence of the importance of teaching fire safety at an early age, the Oak Park Fire Department hopes to reach even more students with its messages of staying safe in emergencies.

The Adopt a Firefighter program lets first grade classrooms adopt an Oak Park firefighter to teach classes about fire safety. The firefighters, who come with personal adoption certificates, then visit the classroom four times throughout the school year.

In addition to get out and stay out, the visits cover a range of potentially life-saving topics, including stop, drop and roll, crawl low under smoke and how to make a 911 emergency call.

Students also get a lesson in “don’t fear the gear” so they won’t be scared should they encounter a firefighter in full turnout garb during an emergency.

Since firefighters are used to the turnout drill, they sometimes can convince the teacher to try on the gear, an effective way to reassure children that there is a person who can be trusted behind the mask and helmet.

Fire officials say these lessons are important first steps that help students prepare for the more advanced safety trailer program that begins in the second grade.

Since the Adopt a Firefighter program began in the spring of 2014, more than 500 Oak Park first grade students have participated in the lessons taught by adopted firefighters.

For more information on the program — or to adopt an Oak Park firefighter — call 708.358.5600 or email