Mobile Classroom A Hot Commodity For Fire Prevention

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By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, October 6, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

HOT TOPIC -— Hampton Fire Inspector Jeff LeDuc and Fire Prevention Officer John True are pictured here with the department's new mobile classroom, designed to help teach fire safety and prevention.
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON -- When Hampton Fire Prevention Officer Jon True brings his annual fire safety message to local schools this month, he will have a brand new teaching tool to fortify that message.

Many of True's lessons will be conducted within the HFD's Bureau of Fire Prevention's new Mobile Classroom, 90 percent of which was funded through a Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Program grant. Private donations covered the remaining 10 percent.

"It did not cost the town anything," said True, who provided essential input while the trailer was being assembled to the desired specifications.

He credits several HFD colleagues (among them Jeff LeDuc, Scott MacDonald, Robin Arsenault and Chief Hank Lipe) with helping to bring the project to fruition.

Outfitted with a fascinating array of educational features, the gleaming white and red trailer provides an exciting new setting designed for "improving life safety" in the home.

"We've got all kinds of good stuff," said True, who utilized the trailer to conduct training sessions with personnel from several local fire departments earlier this week.

When the mobile classroom was brought out recently on its inaugural cruise to New Castle, said True, about 70-80 children and adults checked it out. Their reaction?

"They absolutely loved it," True said, adding that "it's going to be used really heavily the next two weeks" during his fire safety and prevention presentations.

The trailer, which is outfitted with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, has two learning areas designed to represent the interior of a home. Carpeted bleacher seating at one end of the trailer lends a view of a modified kitchen and entertainment area, while a bedroom is situated at the other end.

Once seated inside, students (as well as their adult counterparts) have a bird's eye view of a television screen, a microwave and sink, cabinets and counters, and a stove with light up burners. Each one of these features can be used to drive home specific safety lessons.

For example, the stove is outfitted with a saucepan that can rotate via remote control to show the safe and proper positioning of the handle while in use. A fire extinguisher and spice rack situated behind the back burners will be used to discuss general kitchen and cooking safety.

One remarkable feature of this "classroom on wheels" (in addition to the 911 interactive mailbox situated outside under the awning) is the "Weather Smart" simulation package (this is where the television figures in).

Through the use of videotaped segments projected on the screen, an assortment of light and sound effects and strategically-placed sub-woofers, students can experience the effects of a "hurricane" that actually makes the mini-blinds rattle against the window sills nearby.

Viewers will also witness video which flicks from a segment of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" to urgent weather advisories delivered via news ticker and special reports from a television studio. Eventually an interrupted transmission followed by a "loss of power" is experienced, and the weather radio above the screen begins to blast. Meanwhile, the "hurricane" thunders outside.

Just down the hall (and past a small control room), the bedroom provides clouds of simulated smoke generated "on cue" from above, as well as a hot-to-the-touch door and an opportunity for students to discuss the importance of holding regular family fire drills and having emergency escape plans.

"It definitely will stick in their minds," said LeDuc, who came on board HFD in June as the department's fire inspector. "We'll do our best to educate them."

It is hoped that their experience within the mobile classroom will spur students on toward greater awareness and preparedness should they ever find themselves in an emergency situation.

Hampton won't be the only place the trailer will be used to teach valuable fire prevention and safety lessons.

"We're going to be sharing it with the surrounding towns," said True, noting that fire locals from 12 Seacoast area communities donated funds for the trailer. "Everybody has a part in this."

As time progresses, True anticipates including additional teaching tools (such as fire alarm panels and different styles of sprinklers) to the mobile classroom. He would also like to have a Plexiglas panel installed beside the doorway to the bedroom, so that visitors can witness first-hand the visibility — or lack thereof — which firefighters experience in a smoke-filled room.

As far as providing continued support for this valuable teaching tool, True said that donations are still being gratefully accepted from the community. Those who would like to find out more about the mobile classroom or wish to make a donation may contact Jon True at (603) 926-3316.

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