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SPRING CREEK – Learn, practice, share. That was the message American Red Cross volunteers gave to children who attended a program teaching about staying safe during an emergency.

Mary Ann Laffoon and Darcy Schumacher taught about 20 children the importance of having an escape plan, routinely testing smoke alarms and what to do in the event of an earthquake or an evacuation.

Another class is planned for Aug. 15.

“We want everyone in Elko County to be safe,” Laffoon said during a presentation of the Red Cross’ Pillowcase Project, July 25 at the Spring Creek Association.

But just as important as knowing how to prepare for an emergency is what to do when one actually happens, Schumacher said.

“Stay calm. Screaming and crying won’t help anyone,” Schumacher said.

Pillowcases donated by Disney were handed out to the children and could be used to fill with clothing and personal care items in case of an evacuation.

When Laffoon asked what the children would take with them, the answers included a favorite stuffed animal, a blanket, water, pictures — or maybe an umbrella.

“For everyone, it’s something different,” Laffoon noted.

Before the children received a pillowcase and workbook, they were asked to do one more thing at home.

“You’re responsibility is to share with them and teach them what you have,” Laffoon said. “You now are now learning some very valuable life skills and now you’ve become the teacher. We can all learn from each other. We have to talk and share.”

As she decorated her pillowcase, Khloe Pitts, 7, said she thought the class was “cool” and was eager to follow Laffoon’s instructions.

“I’m going to tell my friends and my dad about it,” she said. Her brother Cayden Pitts, 9, said he learned quite a bit of information in the hour-and-a-half class.

“I think it was kind of handy,” he said. “I’m going to do it if there’s an emergency.”

Addie Sabey, 9, and Parker Allred, 7, agreed with their friends.

“I really liked learning about the fire and stuff,” Allred said.

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“It was fun,” Sabey added. “I’ll probably use it in case of an emergency.”

Anita Connelley said she signed up her 6-year-old daughter, Emmie, for the class, hoping it would reinforce the talks they have had about being prepared for a fire.

“There’s been a lot of wildfires and a lot of things that happened,” Connelley said. “We can talk to them and tell them [what to do], but if someone instructs them it imprints a little more.”

Schumacher said she believes that discussing what to do in case of a fire will benefit the children and reduce their anxieties.

“It lets kids feel safer and calmer if you prepare, if you have a plan,” Schumacher said. “I think that helps everyone feel calmer and safer if they think about the possibilities ahead of time.”

Laffoon agreed, and believes that children who have the knowledge from the emergency preparedness class will take the lead in their homes.

“They’ve been empowered, and now they can go home and empower their families,” Laffoon said.

To sign up for the upcoming Pillowcase Project on Aug. 15, contact Mary Ann Laffoon at 934-9130 or


Courts, schools & Spring Creek reporter

Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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