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There are many ways to evaluate your programs, but the best method we have found is to ask the former students questions when you see them again. Parents, often directed by their children, will point us out and track us down when they see us out in the community. When this happens we simply ask, "What do you remember the most?" The answers to this simple question will tell you volumes about what in your program or presentation is making the biggest impact. Children will often remember crawling below the smoke, throwing the stuffed animal out the window at the firefighter and sleeping with their bedroom doors closed. Adults remember the video the most, how quickly the fire grew and how little time they to get out, as well as the importance of having their children sleep with bedroom doors closed.
With our concentrated fire prevention efforts, our knowledge of fire dynamics, and with new building materials and codes, we can offer our citizens today the best in fire protection. But with over 78% of all fires, and over 80% of all fire deaths, occurring in residential occupancies, this should be an area of obvious concern and a need of our concentrated fire prevention efforts. Education and training is the key to reducing these numbers, and as a fire service, we need to look hard at what we are doing and how we are doing it.
To conduct successful fire prevention education, we must be aggressive, creative, constant, personal and active. We must go beyond the banners, displays, videos and handouts, and train our audience by having them perform the skills they will need to prevent and survive fire — just as we train our firefighters to suppress them. By doing this successfully, we can get the residential occupancy on the same statistical decline as other fire categories, and truly fulfill our fire service mission.
For more from Daniel Byrne and articles on fire prevention and life safety education, visit Firehouse.com's In The Community section at www.firehouse.com/community