Nine-year-old Nevaeh Reddin is pretty shy most of the time, but when there was a fire in her house, she confidently spoke to a 911 operator to give all the necessary details to help firefighters. The Olathe Fire Department recognized her bravery in May with a Chain of Survival Award.
Nevaeh, who is entering fourth grade this fall at Arbor Creek Elementary, has taken the second- and third-grade fire safety courses that the fire department offers through the school. Thirty-six schools participate in the program, and last year, 2,179 third-graders like Nevaeh learned the basics of fire safety through it.
One of the things the students do is figure out all the ways to exit their homes in case of a fire. They also learn what information they might have to know for a 911 call.
The afternoon of May 22, Nevaeh’s mother, Michelle Reddin, had just gotten home when her home smoke alarm started ringing. Nevaeh suggested that she, her mother and 7-year-old brother Zane go outside.
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Michelle Reddin looked for the fire first and, following the smoke, found it burning on Zane’s bed. An iPad charging cable that was plugged into the wall but not into a device had heated the bedding enough to start a fire. A small fray in the cord, combined with its position under a pillow, made it a fire hazard.
Although she was “kind of” scared, Nevaeh took her brother outside, bringing along her mother’s cell phone.
Michelle Reddin looked for a fire extinguisher, then tried to put out the fire with some water when she couldn’t find the extinguisher. The water didn’t put out the fire, and the smoke was starting to get thick, so she left the house.
By the time Michelle Reddin got outside, Nevaeh had called 911 and given the operator their address, the location of the fire in the house and her dad’s cell phone number.
“She was very calm, where I was shaking, of course,” Michelle Reddin said. “… By the time I got outside, you could hear the fire engines coming. … I didn’t know — would she be too scared to make the call? Would she be too scared to talk to the person on the phone?”
She called Jeff Reddin, Nevaeh’s father, and “by the time I got there, everyone was (on the sidewalk) where they were supposed to be, and I knew they were safe. … You think what could have happened,” he said.
Nevaeh said she hadn’t even told her friends what had happened yet the next day when she went to Arbor Creek Elementary’s annual awards ceremony with her class. At the ceremony, representatives from the fire department described the situation at Nevaeh’s house the previous day and presented her with the award.
The fire department gives the Chain of Survival award for “an attempt to preserve life, an act or service exhibiting concern for the well-being of others or a performed, notable act of service,” according to Capt. Mike Hall, a spokesman for the Olathe Fire Department.
“The most important piece of information is that they learn what to do in an emergency situation, and her story, along with a few others, is proof that our program is working. The kids are listening, and they’re able to apply it to a real-life situation,” said Carrie Miller, public education specialist for the Olathe Fire Department.
The fire department initially estimated the damage from the fire at $7,500, but the Reddins said that with smoke damage, the total comes to about $24,000.