In the middle of Killeen ISD Safety Week, firefighters showed off their protective gear, while explaining to students a range of ways to stay safe.

Harker Heights Fire Department firefighters Zachary Gauthier and Joseph Byrne engaged with Harker Heights High School students during lunch periods Wednesday.

Down the hallway alongside the bustling school cafeteria, student council officers provided cancer awareness, also part of the school’s Safety Week efforts.

This is the 24th year that KISD’s Safety Office has hosted a week of broad safety messages across the school system.

Safety Director John Dye said the week gives campus leaders a chance to build their own schedule with presentations and guests speaking to students on age-specific topics.

At Harker Heights High School, the Student Activities Office scheduled the city police and fire departments. Student groups planned to host Mothers Against Drunk Driving and use goggles and other tools to provide awareness about drunk driving.

Prior to the start of lunch Wednesday, Byrne said he was prepared to answer student questions about the firefighting profession and to promote the fire academy that the Killeen Fire Department operates in partnership with KISD.

During their junior and senior years, KISD students can complete training to take the state test to become certified firefighters and emergency medical technicians in Texas.

The two HHFD firefighters pointed out that a county burn ban remains in effect through the end of February. Dry, windy conditions continue to make brushfires a hazard.

The pair said they take every chance to encourage the public to take advantage of training such as CPR classes to be prepared to help those in distress.

They also pointed out the importance of staying on the line when you call 911 to keep emergency responders informed and to have a plan in case of a structure fire.

Every family member needs to know where the common meeting place is, somewhere close to the house, so that everyone is accounted for during a fire, Byrne explained.

At another information table, student council officers Auriana Smith and Mahagany Adair, both seniors, urged peers to come to their table to answer trivia questions about cancer.

The questions addressed the five most deadly forms of cancer, in order lung, colon, breast, pancreatic and prostate.


On Monday, an excited crowd of kindergarten, first and second grade students welcomed canine handler Al Ortega and his furry partner Jazz to the Cavazos Elementary School gym.

Answering questions, Ortega explained that it takes about six months to train a canine to detect contraband – a big word, he said, that means things you can’t take to school.

In a demonstration, the dog and handler showed how the search for unsafe items is a game of sniff and find for the animal. Jazz, a Labrador mix, alerted three times, sitting obediently in front of chairs or bags. Ortega pulled out medication, a firecracker and a can of beer.

Typically, the handler and canine arrive randomly at middle schools and high schools, he said, to search hallways, lockers, restrooms and student parking lots. It’s all an effort to keep schools and people safe, he said.

One student asked why Jazz was such a spaz. “She gets excited,” said Ortega. “She loves her job.”

A pair of dogs and handlers presented throughout KISD elementary schools during the week.


At Nolanville Elementary School on Monday, the Morris Brothers — “Homer” and “Rupert” worked their young crowd into an excited frenzy.

Sharing their “story of courage and confidence,” they explained how they were working in their secret lab when an explosion left them with crazy hair, broken glasses and a super power to entertain the world.

Some of their friends called them nerds because of their silly plaid pants and taped-together glasses, but the Morrises explained that NERD means Never Ending Radical Dude (or dudette).

Bringing volunteers to the cafeteria stage for songs like “I Can Be a Superhero,” and for role-play scenarios showing ways to include everyone on the playground, the Morrises entertained and informed.

A friendly school, the Morrises said, is one characterized by respect, which includes good manners, listening to authorities and not teasing others.

During role-play scenes, the two top nerds picked volunteers and showed how leaving someone out of a game is hurtful. They also showed the difference between reporting a problem like a possible fight or merely tattling about untied shoes.

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