Safety doesn’t happen by accident

Gilpin kids observe Safety Day with area first responders

by Patty Unruh

“I’ve always wanted to be a paramedic,” declared Lydia, a kindergartner at Gilpin Elementary School.

Lydia and her classmates were soon to get the chance to see just what paramedics and other first responders do. It was Safety Day for students in preschool through fifth grade on Tuesday, May 22, and the children congregated at the Gilpin County ball fields on Highway 46 for a fun day of learning.

The event was held at the ball fields rather than on the school’s football field due to construction work on the school’s new track and field.

Responders from Black Hawk Fire Department (BHFD), Central City Fire Department (CCFD), Timberline Fire Protection District (TFPD), Gilpin Ambulance Authority (GAA), Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO), Colorado Highway Patrol, and Air Life Denver were present to interact with the kids.

The day began with great excitement as a helicopter from Air Life came in for a perfect landing on the ball field. Teachers and their young charges seated themselves in a semi-circle in front of the chopper to hear real first responders encourage them in good safety practices.

All of the responders related well on the kid level. Lt. Chris Williams of BHFD let the kids know that the responders may have to leave on a call. “We need you to be safely out of the way if we have to leave, so freeze if we say ‘freeze,’” he instructed.

Gilpin School Resource Officer Lee Ramsey engaged the kids with a Q and A.

“Do we play with wildlife?” Of course, the answer was “NO!”

Ramsey continued with various other items. “Do we play with knives? Lighters? Air horns? Well, I do.”

He gave a quick blast on the loud horn, causing the children to yell and cover their ears.

He held up a cell phone and asked the kids what number to call in case of emergency. The youngsters were already well versed in the response: “9-1-1.” They would need to give their name, location, and what their emergency was.

“Memorize your address,” he emphasized. This very important rule was repeated several times throughout the day.

Ramsey addressed the kids on “stranger danger.”

“What would happen if I had a puppy and I wanted to steal you? Would you come see the puppy if you didn’t know me?”

“No! You’re a stranger!” the students wisely answered.

Quentin Griffin of Black Hawk Fire Department demonstrated a smoke detector, pushing the test button to sound the high-pitched alarm. He urged the kids to have parents test their alarms every six months and to make sure there was a detector in every room of the house.

“What would you do if your clothes caught on fire?” Griffin asked the kids.

“Stop, drop, and roll!” they shouted. Of course, that was a good time to practice stopping, dropping, and rolling — and getting the “fire” and the wiggles out.

Gilpin Ambulance paramedics let the children know that the ambulance comes when someone is hurt or sick. The dispatchers were the ones to answer 9-1-1 calls. They handed out cards for children and parents to complete with their addresses and post on their refrigerators.

“If you have an emergency, give your address. If you are scared, you can just go read it off this card on your fridge,” the kids learned.

After the interactive safety lessons, all responders took their stations to await the classes’ rotation.

The kindergartners were the first lucky ones to check out the flying ambulance from Air Life Denver. Flight nurses Jenna Kesser and Karen Snider helped the kids in a few at a time, and a third nurse, Casey Zeigler, fielded the children’s questions. Pilot Greg Porier gave some fun facts to those who were waiting.

“The helicopter goes 150 miles per hour. This aircraft has 650 horsepower, and we have a new one with 1,000 horsepower. We can go as high as we want.”

He explained that the chopper is used when a very sick or injured person needs to get to the hospital right away.

“It takes ten minutes or less to get from Gilpin to Children’s Hospital,” he said.

Kids had an awesome time at CCFD engine 32, where Shelby Allen talked about the gear worn by the firefighters. She invited third graders to try on jackets, helmets, and face masks, which they were quick to do. It didn’t take much coaxing for the students to try their hands at spraying water from the hose, either.

Lt. Robert Kriegbaum of Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control was on hand to explain the relationship between DFPC and Timberline Fire.

“As a state resource, we have an agreement with Timberline to house this truck at Station 7, across the road here. In return for the ability to use their bay at the station, DFPC helps with wildland fire rescue, responds to motor vehicle accidents or structure fires, any calls that Timberline has during the work week, when they are shortest on volunteers. If there is a wildfire elsewhere in the state or the nation and DFPC is needed, we go there. It’s a win-win situation.”

TFPD’s Kevin Schneider was pleased to show off the firefighters’ wildland truck B510, which will be used for rescues where the responders need to mount severe slopes or travel into deep woods. The vehicle is housed at Station 10 at Apex.

“It’s not for structure fires,” Schneider clarified. “It’s goes really slow, because it’s meant for the challenge of back trail responses. There are only about three or four fire hydrants in the district, so all of our water is shuttled in. Our tenders hold 2,000 gallons, and we set up a sort of tank to use as a big pool at fires.”

Students also visited the incident command van, which is used when several agencies need to work together. Montessori students tried out a special room in the van. The dispatcher slid the door shut and let them practice yelling as loudly as possible. The screams could barely be heard in the main room.

“That’s our ‘quiet room,’” she said, “so dispatchers can hear on the radio.”

Gilpin Ambulance had a new apparatus that the kids investigated – a six-wheeled ambulance manufactured by ASAP. The Polaris UTV, or utility task vehicle, is meant for back country operations.

“This little guy is able to go anywhere in the county,” reported paramedic Tom Kacan. “It was put into service only about a month and a half ago, so we haven’t utilized it yet, but it will be a good resource, especially at Columbine Campground and the Moffat Tunnel locations. It will also save wear and tear on our regular trucks. It’s equipped with a diesel generator, air conditioning, heat, and a spacious back end.”

The sporty little UTV can reach speeds of about 20 mph, but may even burn rubber in the mid-30’s on a flat grade, Kacan explained.

GAA’s chief paramedic, Brandon Daruna, added that the UTV was obtained with a state grant. To his knowledge, Gilpin’s is the first vehicle granted in the state.

“With recreation increasing in our area both winter and summer, we anticipate that more responses will be needed,” Daruna said.

The safety sessions concluded with a few words by former Denver Nuggets player Mark Randall, who is now a community ambassador for the team. Randall came at the invitation of GAA and was there to support the children and the first responders.

“I’m thankful for all of you who serve and protect,” he told the responders. “Children, listen to your teachers and parents. They are trying to keep you safe.”

Applause went up for all the emergency services providers, and the children were sent back to class with 9-1-1 materials, posters, and Frisbees.

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