Although no one is immune from the deadly effects of fire, children are one of fire's most unfortunate victims and, thus, demand fire service educators' foremost attention. Throughout the year, fire service professionals reach out into their communities to inform children and adults of fire...
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In an emergency situation, the mind goes into a recall mode. It quickly attempts to search for cues of how to process the present situation while simultaneously searching for past experiences of similar events. It should be noted that recall of cognitive information is retrieved at a given rate and no faster and, of course, for any recall to occur the information must have been stored in the brain in the first place. Hence the importance of our fire prevention lectures. Hopefully, recall memorization will spur correct response such as crawling low in smoke or feeling the door before opening. We can never doubt the power of our fire safety lectures. Lectures may seem monotonous to us at times, but if no survival cues and techniques are taught and reinforced, then no past experience can be recalled. That means no stimulus for action and therefore no appropriate response can take place and a life may be lost.
It's Worth Repeating
When the proper cues are taught and recognized, the average person faced with an odious situation will not become panic stricken and incapable of performing elementary tasks to enhance or secure survival in a fire. If no cues can be recognized and no past experiences can be recalled, people can experience what is called cognitive dysfunction. The brain shuts down. This cognitive impairment is called brain freeze.
Brain freeze is not just from sipping an Icee too fast. In an emergency situation, we face a fight, flight (run away) or freeze (stand still) reaction. For immediate cognitive response to provide a more instantaneous reaction, it is imperative that we advance fire safety skills through influential pre-conditioning. This conditioning is achieved through our fire service lectures and demonstrations.
Through our educational programs we can achieve cognitive retention, avoid cognitive dysfunction and accelerate survival skills. We must give consumers knowledge of expected encountered events and a prescribed way in which to handle these events. This is why the fire service should never discount its return year after year restating the same fire prevention message. It is only through redundancy and repetition of information that we can enhance cognitive memory recall, avoid cognitive impairment and save lives.
TRACY KILMER has been the fire official and fire sub-code official in the Borough of Palmyra, NJ, for 14 years, conducting fire inspections and investigations and designing and implementing fire safety programs for the public and private sectors. She also is the borough's construction official and building inspector and deputy coordinator of its Office of Emergency Management. Kilmer holds a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) certification from the Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and New Jersey Division of Fire Safety certifications as a Fire Official, Firefighter I, Hazmat On-Scene Commander, Incident Management System Level I and Instructor Level II. She also holds New Jersey Department of Community Affairs licenses as a Construction Official, High Rise/Hazardous (HHS) Fire Inspector, Sub Code Official-Fire Protection, Housing Code Official/Inspector and Building Residential and Small Commercial (RCS). Kilmer served for 10 years as a structural firefighter and is a past instructor at the Burlington County Fire Academy. She holds an associate's degree in law enforcement.