An All-Year Approach

All fire departments are familiar with Fire Safety Month, but fire safety shouldn't end there. Fire departments must provide children's fire safety education all year long in order to get the fire safety message out. Fire risks to children don't occur...


All fire departments are familiar with Fire Safety Month, but fire safety shouldn't end there. Fire departments must provide children's fire safety education all year long in order to get the fire safety message out. Fire risks to children don't occur only in October, so why should our programs...


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All fire departments are familiar with Fire Safety Month, but fire safety shouldn't end there. Fire departments must provide children's fire safety education all year long in order to get the fire safety message out. Fire risks to children don't occur only in October, so why should our programs focus on fire risks only during this one month? Children learn through what they see and what they are exposed to. Greater exposure to our life-saving messages means that children have a greater chance of retaining what they learn if it is taught with a greater frequency.

The Neshannock Township, PA, Fire Department found this out. Like many departments, it provided most of its children's fire safety education in the fall, with limited programs throughout the rest of the year. It was noticed during the annual programs that the children often forgot basic fire safety information such as fire escape plans and fire prevention skills. The department recognized this and decided to take a new approach, a year-long fire safety program. By creating a partnership with the Neshannock Township School District, the fire department was able to adopt a fire safety curriculum that was approved by the district and taught throughout the school year.

The first step in implementing a year-long fire safety program was to create a curriculum to ensure that participants received the same lessons and safety messages from year to year. A partnership with the school district's Memorial Health Services was organized, with a panel made up of the fire company's fire safety coordinator, the school health director, teachers and school administrators. It was decided to base the program on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) "Learn Not to Burn" Fire Safety Curriculum, designed to teach age-appropriate fire safety skills to children. The curriculum was tailored to suit the needs of the children and our community's risks. The "Fire Safe Kids" program was introduced as a year-round fire safety curriculum that integrates fire safety into daily classroom activities. The children learn fire safety behaviors that are grade appropriate. Each lesson is self-building from the previous year's program, letting the children build newfound knowledge on past lessons and practices.

"Fire Safe Kids" far exceeds the Pennsylvania State Academic Standards for Health, Safety & Physical Education. This was accomplished by teaching fire safety through an academic curriculum. Each lesson includes behavioral objectives based on "Learn Not to Burn" and that must be met by the students. Each lesson is accompanied by worksheets that reinforce the safety points being taught.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the "Learn Not to Burn" curriculum and why it was integrated into our program is that it uses motor skills and subjects such as reading, writing and arithmetic. These skills are used and enhanced during the fire safety lessons by including them in classroom activities. The program involves home activities that can be done as a family and also lets teachers assign homework that teaches an academic lesson with a fire safety message included. This way, children receive their academic education while including activities that teach them to spot hazards in their homes and deliver the fire safety message to the entire family.

During October, Fire Safety Month, the fire department provides fun activities for the children, using fire safety props that provide hands-on activities to reinforce lessons learned in the classroom. Children in pre-school through first grade are taught fire safety lessons using "Sparky," the department's fire safety education robot. The robot was purchased from Robotronics using fire prevention grants. The children are shown age-appropriate cartoons purchased from the NPFA and each lesson is reinforced using "Sparky" to teach the life saving skills, such as "Stop, Drop and Roll," stay away from things that get hot, match and lighter safety, and cool a burn. They are also taught basic fire escape plans and the students then demonstrate their skills using a "Stop, Drop and Roll" mat. A firefighter dons full personal protective equipment (PPE) in front of the young children to teach them not to be afraid of a firefighter. The children thoroughly enjoy getting the chance to feel the heavy coat, listen to a firefighter talk through self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and knock on his helmet to see how hard it is. They also have their picture taken with the firefighter and a fire truck. Each child receives a plastic fire helmet and badge as well as a coloring book and stickers.

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