ClemsonLIFE, Clemson University Fire Department partner in effort to enhance fire safety education
When it was Brittany Kennedy’s turn, the junior bounced out of her chair and pretended to make an emergency call as she held an imaginary cell phone up to her ear.
“Hello, is this 911? We’ve got a fire. Let’s get it!”
She proceeded to grab the nearby fire extinguisher, pull the pin as instructed and press the nozzle to begin putting out fake flames inside the community room of Clemson Fire Station No. 2.
Kennedy was among 15 students from the ClemsonLIFE program who visited the Issaqueena Trail location Wednesday morning as part of an outreach program and extinguisher training exercise in conjunction with the Clemson University Fire Department.
The enthusiasm with which Kennedy performed the fire extinguishing simulation was met with hearty laughter from her classmates and teachers in the LIFE program, and instructors Kevin Christenbury and Craig Walters from the Fire Department.
“They’re such a fun group, they have an excitement about them,” said Walters, a fire inspector for the University. “I enjoy training them, because these students have abilities that far exceed what the average person thinks they are capable of.”
Working with ClemsonLIFE takes on special meaning for Walters, whose wife Erica serves as the program coordinator. And while she was out of town during this particular visit, three of her staff members — Kayla Davis, Sarah McAlpine and Kimberly Zogran — took part in the training fun as well.
Davis worked with ClemsonLIFE during her four years as an undergraduate student at Clemson, where she relocated from her hometown of Chicago to take part in the school’s special education program. McAlpine heads up the paid employment program and is in her third year of the position, while Zogran serves as a senior-year teacher and helps transition ClemsonLIFE students following graduation.
Davis returned to her alma mater following two years in public school teaching and now serves as a functional academics instructor for ClemsonLIFE. She explained what made Wednesday’s event, and others like it, such a joy for the students.
“We do events like this so our students can be exposed to the local community,” she said. “It also allows the students to learn about the station and learn about fire safety. It’s part of our curriculum in functional academics. We try and teach them things they need to know in order to be independent and live on their own.”
One by one, students and teachers took turns seeing who could put the simulated fire out most efficiently by adopting the PASS technique — pull the pin, aim the nozzle, squeeze the handle and sweep the nozzle. The simulation equipment is utilized through a joint agreement between Fire/EMS, University Facilities, Housing & Dining and Research.
It’s not uncommon for Walters and Christenbury, the University fire marshal, to set up tables in Hendrix Student Center or the University Union and offer training to students passing by between classes.
Davis said it greatly benefited the students of ClemsonLIFE, who toured the inside of the station and got an up-close look at the engines following the training.
“It was really cool today,” she said. “You don’t get to practice with a regular fire extinguisher, it’s one-and-done. To have this technology and be able to learn it and practice, in a real-life situation it helps them be more successful.”