Sussex Emergency Operations Center abuzz with fifth-graders at 9-1-1 Awareness Day

Macho, a Delaware State Police -K9, sinks his teeth into the protective sleeve worn by state police Cpl. John Wilson during a demonstration at 9-1-1 Awareness Day. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center is often a busy beehive.

Thursday, it was busier than normal.

Sussex County’s 19th annual 9-1-1 Awareness Day brought upward of 1,400 fifth-graders from schools throughout the county to the EOC grounds near the Delaware Coastal Airport for a behind-the-scenes look at real-life drama that plays out at the center and in public safety every day of the year.

The mission is to reinforce public safety awareness and preparedness.

“It never gets old,” said Sussex County EOC Director Joe Thomas. “The whole idea is to try to teach these kids what the people behind the scenes of 911 do — the police, the firefighter, the paramedic emergency medical technician do — so that if they are ever in a need they know not to fear these people and understand what we do.”

Students toured the 911 dispatch center and outside visited nearly two dozen display/public safety stations along with several eye-opening demonstrations.

A traditional favorite with the younger generation was K-9 demonstrations, which featured several Delaware State Police K-9 units.

Charlie Mood shares information on Sussex County’s Technical Rescue with students in Sharon Parker’s fifth-grade class from Frederick Douglass Elementary School. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

A vehicle extrication was another demonstration.

Fifth-graders also received a general lesson in 911 protocol.

“We explain when you call 911, here is what you should expect, and here are the things that we are going to ask for, so that they understand the concept,” said Mr. Thomas.

The event held Thursday was postponed from Oct. 11 — National Fire Prevention week was Oct. 7-13 — due to an inclement weather forecast.

“We try to do it during Fire Prevention week,” said Mr. Thomas. “This is the first year we’ve had a rain date.”

Among the popular stops for students were the Blades Volunteer Fire Company Smoke House and Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company’s one-year-old Fire Safety House.

Neriza Jaimez, a fifth-grader at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, scales down the ladder at the Blades Volunteer Fire Company’s Smoke House. Standing by if assistance is needed are Craig Depew (front) and Blades Deputy Fire Chief Jason Tharp. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Students in the Blades Smoke House experienced a make-believe fire and safely maneuvered from an upstairs floor to an escape ladder monitored by fire company personnel.

Bridgeville Station 72’s Fire Safety House offered measures in smoke detectors, kitchen safety (hot pots and ovens), microwave safety, matches and lighters, the danger of combustibles near a flame or hot surface and overloaded electrical circuit danger.

Living room safety focused on the fireplace and use and proper placement of candles — at least 12 inches from anything potentially combustible.

The Fire Safety House includes a smoke element (it’s fake and not harmful) to simulate proper response to a smoke detector and a fire in utilizing EDITH (Exit Drills In The Home).

Ten-year-old Bradley Tomeski, a junior firefighter for the day, points to some of the preventive safety tips at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company’s Fire Safety House. (Glenn Rolfe/Delaware State News)

“Between both of these (Blades and Bridgeville houses) being utilized at different venues we’re getting around the community,” said John Tomeski, fire safety officer for the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company. “I put over 600 students through last week; 200 kindergartners and over 600 students, including middle school.”

“This is not just for the little kids. This is for all ages,” said Mr. Tomeski. “Last week was Fire Prevention Week, but fire prevention gets practiced all year round.”

Students were treated to a lunch of pizza — Grotto made about 200 pizzas — and ice cream dessert.

“We have partnered with Grotto Pizza over the years, and The Frozen Farmer,” said Mr. Thomas. “It’s not only about the education, the public safety education and 911 and what we do. We want them to have fun, too, because if they have fun they’ll remember, and they will take away.”

9-1-1 Awareness Day is sponsored annually by Sussex County and the Delaware State Police, which jointly operate the 911 center.

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