WHEELING — A tiny town complete with wooden buildings, streets and sidewalks helped children learn how to safely cross the road and learn some driving rules Friday.
The program was part of WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital’s Safety Town, which teaches 4- and 5-year-old children how to stay safe at home and while out in the community.
“We have our own little town here. Half of our students drive and half walk the town. They learn to coincide with moving vehicles,” said Sheri Harvey, manager of guest services and coordinator of Safety Town.
“So they’ll stop at the stop signs and watch out for each other. They learn how cars are driving and our walkers will go across the crosswalk.
“They’re learning to stop, watch, look right-left-right over their shoulder and also to listen.
“They’re listening for moving cars and they’re listening for sirens before they step out into the street.”
Harvey said they work on these skills every day of the program. Helping with the program each day are Wheeling Police Department Officer Jason Chambers and Wheeling Fire Department Assistant Chief Deric Jamison. There are also several student volunteers helping.
This week, the police officer day was held and next week firefighter day will be held on Tuesday. Harvey said it is important to teach their children that police officers and firefighters are their friends and not to be scared of them or hide during an emergency.
Other topics covered during the 10-day program include fire safety, poison safety, swimming safety, boating safety, school bus safety, playground safety, using seat belts and “stranger danger” safety.
“We actually plant a stranger out in our town and go over a video. When we go out we try to see how many of them actually go to the stranger,” Harvey said.
“The stranger will usually have candy or a small dog to try to lure them away. We teach them what to do if a stranger approaches,” she said.
“In the video they learn how to kick, scream, yell. They learn not to get into somebody else’s car even if they say your parent is sick – they learn to walk away from that.
“Even if they say, ‘Well your mom wants me to pick you up.’ They learn it doesn’t matter, to go home.”
She said they are also taught not to open their door if they are home alone and not to answer the phone.
“It’s a great program. The kids have a lot of fun. The kids build great friendships and some community with our community first responders,” she said.
Harvey said she hopes the children remember most of what they learn during the program, but she said the two main points she hopes they remember is that police and firefighters are there to help them not hurt them.
Jamison said during fire safety day the children will go through the fire safety house and learn life-saving lessons. They will also get to see a fire engine and ambulance so they will be more familiar with the vehicles during a possible emergency.
“They learn how to be safe. For some of them, it’s their first time away from mom or dad for a short period of time. They get a little bit of independence and they get a small lesson,” Jamison said.
Harvey said the Ohio County Animal Shelter also brings a dog to do a pet safety program.
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