1st Impressions - Lasting Impressions

Should our first meeting with this age group go awry, a barrier will then be placed in the middle of the road for reaching out to these children in the future.

Day one is our introduction day, and the most important day. We not only introduce ourselves, but the children introduce themselves as well. This is a good day to get a feel for what the children already know. We do this by talking with them, not too them, and reading a fire service orientated child's book.

After our introduction we ask simple questions, like "What do I do, what is my job?" Many students will reply, after seeing the uniform and badge, "you are a police officer and you arrest people." As part of our program, rather than simply correcting them, we use this opportunity to educate them by re-asking, "What do police officers carry with them?" "Do you see anything like that on me?" We then guide them to find their own conclusion that we must be firefighters. Then we ask, "What do we do?" The answers always involve fire and rescue, which are good, but we continue on and as before, they supply the answers and find the solutions; "If you are hurt, can firefighters help you?" "If you are really sick and need a doctor fast, can firefighters help you?" "If you are lost and scared, could you find a firefighter for help?" The idea is to instill in them that we are community helpers and can help them whenever they are in trouble. This is a good means to see what the children already know and how they perceive firefighters.

The next topic is how to find a firefighter. We talk about fire stations, and ask if they have ever been to the fire station by their house, sadly to which all too many of them say "no." But we encourage them to stop by anytime. Then we introduce 911 and talk about what an emergency is, such as a fire, accidents, getting hurt, bad people trying to get them, etc. An effective way to describe what an emergency is to this age group is by making the association with being scared. "Would a fire make you scared?" "Would a bad person trying to get you make you scared?" Then we associate that feeling with 911, and that if they ever feel scared and can't find an adult, to call 911. We always finish with, "Does a kitty cat in a tree make you scared?" "Then should you call 911 for that?" By the conclusion of this portion, the answer is "no."

Next we read them a book. We choose a child's book that describes fire stations, station life, fire trucks, equipment, 911, responding to emergencies and what firefighters do. This is our chance to connect with them. We talk in character voices, have the children make siren noises, water noises, and we are animated and focused on getting the children involved. We talk about the "special gear" firefighters wear and have the children make muffled air noises. The book we use shows a family at a window being rescued and we talk about the importance of not hiding in a fire and to go to the window if they can't get out the door. The book also shows the firefighters going back in to rescue the family pet, showing the important lesson of not going back inside.

At the end of day one we give all the children a sticker, and talk about the game we will be playing the next day to build anticipation, the "Tools & Toys" and "What's Hot - What's Not" games.

Day Two

We start off day two by recapping the first day, going over all the information and making all the sounds and noises, and then we start our "Tools & Toys," game.

As part of our game we bring in a tool box with real tools (all still safely in their packages) and a toy box with some of the popular toys (such as Sponge Bob dolls, etc.). We talk about each box and stress that tools go in the tool box and that is an adult box, and toys go into the toy box, and those are for them to play with. As part of the game, we hold up an item of each, a tool or a toy, and the children have to state which box they are to go in. We help them decide by asking, "Can you play with this, and can it hurt you?" If they answer that they can play with it and it cannot hurt them, it goes into the toy box, if they state they cannot play with it and it will hurt them, into the adult tool box it goes! Towards the end we show matches and various lighters, especially the lighters that look like toys, and steer the children into realizing that they are tools that can hurt them, and that they go into the tool box for adults to use.