Oct. 21—First responders from several agencies and departments arrived at Kirkwood Elementary School the morning of Friday, Oct.15, for a very good cause — to educate the school's students about the presence and role of police and firefighters in the community and the school district.
Kirkwood Principal Ashley Meese said the special assembly was coordinated to educate students about first responders and to familiarize them with what police officers and firefighters look like if, or when, responding to an emergency at the campus.
"For many of the students the sight of a police officer on campus might be frightening, especially if wearing SWAT gear. We wanted to help the students understand that an officer or firefighter on campus is here to help and protect them, and not someone to be afraid of," she added. "We want them to be comfortable with those who are here for their safety."
Corning Police Chief Jeremiah Fears told the students the first responders as a whole had the common goal of protecting each and every student and staff member. He, along with Corning Police Officer Ed Curiel, showed the students what an officer outfitted in SWAT gear would look like, and, to the children's delight, flew one of the department's two drones overhead.
"Our main priority is to keep you safe and take down the bad guy if one is on campus," Curiel said. "We wear this gear and can use this drone to do just that."
CalFire Firefighter Chris Maderos and Engineer Sean Hamilton brought one of the department's fire engines to show the students, and explained the use of many of the emergency tools and equipment on the truck.
"Our role in an emergency at your school is to help people who have been hurt. We would also respond to a fire," Maderos said.
Tehama County Sheriff's Sgt. Andy Houghtby asked the students to explain how they would be able to recognize a first responder from someone else. The students said it is by the officers' uniforms and badges.
He also talked about the difference between an officer, firefighter or a "bad guy", and how the students should respond to each.
The first responders talked about if a person threatening them came on campus the first thing the students were to do was run away to a safe location, if they couldn't run, then to hide and if they couldn't hide to fight back.
"A classroom of students throwing books, erasers, staplers, pens and pencils at a bad guy can have an impact," said California Highway Patrol Officer Phillip Mackintosh, as he stood next to eighth-grade student Ella Fredrickson, who was wearing his very heavy kevlar safety vest outfitted with extra ammunition and gear.
The first responders said if there was a bad guy on campus, their first priority is to find and stop the perpetrator, and they might initially have to ignore the students in an effort to keep them safe.
"We know you would be scared and want to run to us, but we have to find the bad guy first," Houghtby explained.
In response the students said they understood.
"You get the bad guys and that's good," said one kindergarten student.
Another student asked, "How do you get a cat out of a burning house?" The first responders even answered that one.
At the end of the assembly, the students asked the officers and firefighters to light-up their vehicles emergency lights and sirens.
According to Fears, the Tehama County Sheriff's Office annually conducts an Active Shooter Training Scenario at Richfield Elementary School (when students are not in attendance) during which all first responders in the county attend.
"It is a sad fact that such training has to take place," Fears said. "But in today's atmosphere, it is essential to protecting our children."