Safety Prevention

Officer Gretchen Shares Safety Tips with McNary Students

“Don’t be a hidden Easter egg!” That is a phrase that Officer Gretchen Erickson used with elementary students in a McNary classroom this spring. Erickson was talking about what kids should do and not do if there is a fire in their house. “If there is a fire and smoke, don’t hide in your bed or somewhere else in your house, get out if you can, alert responders to where you are and make yourself visible and known.”

Erickson, who works for Umatilla Fire District #1, knows how to talk to kids -- she has been teaching safety and prevention for 39 years. This year, she is visiting elementary schools in Hermiston and teaching third and fourth graders in Umatilla School District. Recently in front of a class of students, she talked about the importance of closing your bedroom door (with your parents’ permission) to slow down potential fire and smoke. With an open door, smoke can enter a bedroom in about four minutes, but if the door is closed, it will take 14 minutes to come in. “A closed door is very, very important,” Erickson said. 

She then showed students her Smoke Monster puppet and encouraged students to draw their own smoke monster on their papers. When she was a little girl, she thought the actual flames were the most dangerous, but house fire smoke is like floating poison because it contains all kinds of dangerous chemicals. She discussed smoke detectors, ways to escape a fire and designating a family meeting place.

Erickson said she tries to make the information fun so students will be engaged and remember it. Students seemed to enjoy the lesson, calling out answers. “You all are going to be some of the most intelligent kids in Umatilla!”