Students at Sherman’s Wakefield Elementary learned how to stay safe in emergency situations Friday, thanks to an entertaining and educational assembly presented by Sherman’s first responders.

Put on by the Sherman Fire Department, the assembly was one of several this week presented to the district’s elementary schools and students.

To better teach children between kindergarten and fourth grade how to prevent and react to common, real-world dangers, the department organized a football- and tailgate-themed presentation complete with zany characters, overs-sized props and slapstick comedy. Students learned how to best handle situations ranging from fires and injuries to calling 9-1-1 and dealing with potentially dangerous strangers.

Sherman Fire Capt. Shane Kenney, who played the part of Blaze, a safety-conscious football referee, explained that while he and fellow firefighters could have hosted the assembly in their normal gear, acting as characters allowed students to better remember the important lessons of the assembly, as well as have a few laughs.

“We’re trying to teach it in a way that relates to them or that they understand,” Kenney said. “And that’s why we come out as these characters.”

Sherman Police Department Patrol Officer Tim Gann also joined the presentation and said he too felt the students’ understanding was stronger when he is in costume.

“I can go talk to a class all day long wearing a uniform and all they’re going to see is the Taser, the gun, the baton and the radio. They’re not going to hear a word I say,” Gann said. “But if I come out here, with all that left in the car, and instead I’m a clown or a character of some sort, they seem to relate to us a lot more and pick up on what we’re talking about.”

And while students laughed at the attire and the antics, they did retain the important lessons at the heart of the presentation.

In the event of a fire, students learned that they should pick two exits that can be used to escape a building.

Second grader Seloria Phea said that although she and her family had already discussed ways to remain safe during emergencies, she was still glad to learn new practices including that no one should ever return to a burning building for their belongings.

While protecting children and equipping them with the knowledge to stay safe is a priority of all first responders, the mission is particularly important to Sherman Fire Marshall and Prevention Division Chief Danny Fuller. Fuller explained that one of the most difficult moments of his career came when a house-fire claimed the lives of two young children. He said that tragedy and other such experiences are always hard for first responders, but that they ultimately further his department’s resolve to ensure the safety of young people.

“We don’t want any child to be harmed in our jurisdiction,” Fuller said. “That’s our deal and we’re pretty passionate about that.”