up, there were cups and plates on the floor."
After sitting through an earthquake simulation presented by the
Costa Mesa Fire Dept., though, Cabrera knew the drill: "Go under
something that's safe, like a table or your bed. Roll over and cover
your neck so nothing can hit it if it falls."
Last Tuesday, California Elementary was one of 10 schools in the
country participating in the Youth Ready to Respond project,
sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation. The first-year pilot
program offers schools $50,000 over two years to teach safety-related
protocols to students -- from anti-terrorist measures to bullying
California Elementary used the grant money to teach fire and
earthquake safety to 141 fourth- and fifth-graders.
"They're definitely at an age where their decision-making skills
are able to affect others and themselves," said fourth-grade teacher
Tiana Fox. "These kids are home a lot in the afternoon."
To prepare for those urgent moments, students at California
Elementary learned the protocols for dealing with in-home fires and
earthquakes -- what to touch, what to avoid and, most importantly,
how to escape. Firefighters set up a trailer on the school field with
two tiny rooms inside -- a bedroom and a kitchen -- and led students
through the steps in real time.
In the fire simulation, the trailer emitted fake smoke through its
wall vents and sounded an alarm for students, who escaped out the
back door and window. For the earthquake, lights flashed on and off
while the windows shook, all through electronic programming. The
daylong event also featured an actual fire demonstration on the lawn,
as firefighters started a blaze in a pan and put it out with an
Students had begun a safety unit in class the week before the
demonstration, reading material about fire and earthquakes from the
Red Cross. After Youth Ready to Respond Day, principal Kelli Smith
said, participants would tour the school halls and make a "hazard
checklist" of potential dangers at the school, which they would then
present to the PTA.
California Elementary students may just be learning safety
procedures, but based on the simulations, Costa Mesa fire protection
specialist Cheryl Wills gave them good marks.
"I was afraid they were going to get scared," she said, "but they
didn't at all."
* IN THE CLASSROOM is a weekly feature in which Daily Pilot
education writer Michael Miller visits a campus in the Newport-Mesa
area and writes about his experience.