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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 5, 2006

Fire prevention calls attention to physique

By Michael DeMattos

October was Fire Prevention Awareness Month and keiki throughout the state brought home their "Fire Fighter's Safety Guide." The booklet outlines important steps to assuring fire safety in the home.

Each year our family goes through the manual page by page to make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent a house fire. It is a fun exercise that may just save a life.

The first thing we did this year was check the smoke detectors. To be honest, we knew that they worked because just two weeks earlier, the alarms sounded when I grilled up some steaks on the stove. Maybe "burned" is more accurate than "grilled."

Next, we sketched a map of the house. Together we outlined the safety routes from each room and designated a meeting place in the front yard. Because we have jalousies that sometimes stick, we went so far as to locate objects in each room that we could use as a club to break the glass if escape routes are blocked.

Then came the moment my daughter was waiting for: the blind crawl and the infamous stop, drop and roll.

The blind crawl was particularly difficult this year because of two critical changes to the house. First, we removed all the carpet and laid tile. The aesthetic improvement is undeniable. Our little tongue-and-groove shack now looks ... well ... like a nicer tongue-and-groove shack.

Still, for all the added beauty of the tile, the blind crawl was tough on the hands and knees. Interestingly, it didn't seem to bother my daughter at all.

Adding insult to injury, after we changed the flooring, we decided to rearrange the furniture. I've got two words for you: head trauma. Again my daughter breezed through the house, making it from her room to the kitchen door completely unscathed while I ran into everything head-first like a ram fighting for a mate.

Finally, it was time for the "stop, drop and roll." My daughter went first, rolling from the living room to the family room like a tire racing downhill. I followed, only to find that at my age and size, I do not stop, drop and roll as much as simply stop and drop.

In fact, I got stuck.

You would think that with my "distinguished" tummy I would be prone to rolling. Nope, not a chance. In a cruel twist of fate, that same protruding belly collapsed like A-Rod in the playoffs and left me floundering like a fish out of water.

My daughter thought this was hilarious and laughed to the point of tears before she rolled me over like a bag of rice. My knees, hands and back in pain and dizzy to the point of nausea, I was hopeful that if really on fire, I would be more "motivated" to roll.

Yes, October was fire safety month and yes, we discovered that the house is safe and sound.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for some of the older male occupants.

The exercises in the "Fire Fighter's Safety Guide" are designed to save a life, not put it at risk. Thankfully, I am expecting a full recovery from this year's drills and with a little work, I hope to be better prepared for next year.

My goal is simple: stop, drop but mostly roll.

Michael DeMattos is a faculty member of the University of Hawai'i School of Social Work. He lives in Kane'ohe with his wife, daughter and two dogs.