Coming to Waldron Elementary School on Friday afternoon was a homecoming of sorts for Jeff Owens.
The Indianapolis firefighter who now gives more than 400 programs and reaches more than 400,000 students from across the country each year, celebrated the 25th year that he has gone to Waldron with his fire safety presentation. Owens’ first presentation was made 25 years ago to kindergarten students at the elementary school.
Owens tested Waldron students’ memories, quizzing them periodically during the 30-minute presentation, which covered Stop, Drop and Roll, smoke alarm guidelines, and selecting a meeting spot at home.
He referred to the child burn camps that every state has while introducing his two black labs, Kasey and Kali, who were his co-stars.
“The things we’re trying to prevent don’t only just happen to someone else, somewhere else,” he said. “It can happen in every community. That’s why everyone needs to know their fire and life safety skills to help prevent or diminish those injuries.”
Kasey, a 7-year-old, fifth generation performer, and 3-year-old Kali demonstrated how the students should respond if there is a fire at home.
They touched a hula hoop, serving as a door, to demonstrate the need to test to see if a bedroom door is hot. They crawled on their bellies to demonstrate crawling on the floor, where the air is better. And they barked on command when Owens talked about shouting for help.
He quizzed the students, asking if it’s possible to hide from smoke or fire.
“No!” they shouted back.
“Don’t ever get into a hiding place,” he said. “That means you don’t ever get under a bed, you never get into a closet in a fire, because if you do, that means you’re only hiding from the people who are trying to find you. And you want the firefighters to come find you and get you out. So we want you to stay down on the floor because that’s where all the good air is.”
He also encouraged them to set up a meeting spot with their parents if they don’t already have one, and to have their parents check fire alarms twice a year. Their parents could check the battery when they change their clocks, he said.
Owens, Kasey and Kali will be appearing at 1 p.m. on Jan. 24 at Hendricks Elementary School in Shelbyville.