PORTAGE, Mich. — Jamie Burghdoff just graduated from Gull Lake High School, and she’s headed to the University of Michigan in the fall to learn how to heal people — pediatrics, maybe. Or possibly emergency medicine.
Burghdoff, 18, has a lot of studying to do before she becomes a doctor. But at the recent Camp 9-1-1, she was the one doing the teaching.
“I came to help kids learn CPR and firstaid,” Burghdoff said. “I’m here to help teach them the things I know.”
Burghdoff was one of four camp counselors — honor students, premed hopefuls, and young emergency medical technicians — who gathered with professionals at the Portage Fire Department to assist with Camp 9-1-1, a day of fun and education on emergency preparation and safety for kids.
A fire-station tour was the first order of business, and then the lessons began. The group of 15 kids got to see canines in action, courtesy of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety; learned about water safety from certified lifeguard Krystal Headley; and got a lesson in bike safety — along with a free helmet — from Portage police officer Jim Lord, of the Kalamazoo County Safe Kids Coalition.
The kids learned about substance abuse and abduction prevention and got to see the inside of an ambulance.
They learned, but there was fun to be had as well. Some got to spray a firetruck’s hose on the 85-degree day, and others went on an aerial bucket ride 55 feet into the sky.
“My favorite part was playing in the sprinkler,” said Wyatt Hardy, 8, of Vicksburg, during a break from cardiopulmonary-resuscitation training with EMT specialist and CPR instructor Sandy McGuire. Wyatt was enjoying the day with his friend Andy Zeman, 9, also of Vicksburg.
Andy was intrigued by the techniques that McGuire demonstrated to the group on small CPR mannequins.
“CPR looks really fun,” Andy said, before getting his turn at it.
His buddy set him straight after one cycle of chest compressions.
“CPR hurts your arms,” Wyatt told him, before professing the most important thing he’d digested all day: “Today I learned not to smoke.”
Therison Bradshaw, 9, was visiting his cousin, Delores Shackelford, 7, of Kalamazoo, from out of town, so the two attended together. They ate grapes and cheese crackers during the afternoon portion of the program and asked questions of firefighters as they described fire-prevention and safety techniques.
Therison had an eye-opening experience when he got to try on the Fatal Vision Goggles presented by Prevention Works. He walked a straight line both with and without the goggles on.
“I learned how bad alcohol is for you,” he said. “The goggles made me feel how it is to be drunk. It was creepy.”
On-call firefighter Paul Quezada, 40, of Portage, used seven years of firefighting experience to educate the group on fire prevention, home safety and other fire-related issues.
“It’s important to establish a safe place outside for the family to go if the house is on fire,” he said. “Like a tree or the mailbox. That way, everyone knows that everyone else got out OK. And when you call 911, be sure to tell them if everyone is out of the house or not.”
Capt. John Yuhas explained the safest way to get out of a burning building.
“The best air is down on the floor,” he said. “If you walk, the carbon monoxide will get you, and you’ll pass out. “You need to crawl on the floor to get out.”
Then Yuhas showed participants how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
“Aim down at the base of the fire — not up where the flames are going,” he said. “Aim for the bottom, spray back and forth, and the fire will go out.”
Jordan Coulson, 11, of Portage, had a serious question on her mind.
“If you can’t get out of your bedroom and there’s a window, isn’t it better to break your leg than die?” Jordan said. “If that happens, should I jump?”
Quezada left it up to her.
“You do what you have to do,” he said. “You don’t want to get burned, and you don’t want to breathe bad air. We’ll get to your house pretty quick, but sometimes people have to jump. It’s much better to have a roll-up escape ladder in every second-story bedroom so that everyone has a way out of the house during a fire.”
Kimberly Middleton, 42, of Mattawan, who is the community relations coordinator for Life EMS Ambulance Kalamazoo, said the camps are a great way to give back to the community.