It’s the image drivers never want to see: a ball rolling onto the roadway being chased by a child oblivious to traffic.
That is just one of the scenarios the Mount Laurel Fire Department wants residents to be prepared for now that school has started.
Chris Burnett, provisional deputy chief, warns motorists to be wary of children: if they see a ball or a bike or anything else indicating a child is nearby be careful.
Despite having six elementary schools there have been no serious issues of safety in Mount Laurel.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Burnett said.
He also said crossing guards as well as police are vigilant.
Burnett stressed that parents should talk to kids about walking around the schools, crossing the street, and wearing helmets while on wheels.
He also said parents should properly seat children. The department offers a child safety seat inspection through the Burlington County Sheriff’s office.
Burnett said firefighters will roll out a fire prevention program at area schools this fall.
Lt. Kathleen Kirvan said firefighters try to use alternate routes when going out on a call. They avoid school zones whenever possible because children flock to the engines with their lights and sirens.
All Mount Laurel firefighters have undergone certified emergency vehicle operator (CEVO) training.
“If there are two different ways to get to a particular area, we’ll try to avoid the school areas because of the fact that it there are kids in the area they may run toward the fire trucks,” Kirvan said. “That’s one thing we do to keep our kids safe.”
However, if personnel need to fight a fire near a school, they are extra vigilant about kids in the area.
Because some schools are on main roadways, the department informs drivers that there could be children in the area at all times of day.
If a child chases a ball he or she won’t necessarily think like an adult and might go right for ball, Kirvan said, adding motorists should look straight ahead and to the sides at all times.
She also said safety begins in the home with parents.
“They need to make sure that they reiterate to their children about safety,” Kirvan said. “You can’t just tell them once because while it might sink in that time maybe it doesn’t so you’ve just got to keep vigilant and remind them that the crosswalks are in place for a particular reason: they have to go to the crosswalks where there are crossing guards who are responsible for getting them safely across the street.”
John Presner has been a firefighter for nine years.
He said transitioning from summer vacation to school time is a good time to be aware of safety concerns.
Presner suggested parents put reflective clothing on children, especially as it gets darker sooner. He also said children should make sure they look both ways, use sidewalks, and wear helmets to provide protection for many sports.