After responding to residential fires and other emergencies in which a middle school child was the oldest in the home, we made reaching this age group a goal of our department, and set out by vocalizing this desire at every opportunity. Once the goals were established, the title of the class was born, "The Beaufort Fire/Rescue Youth Academy."
The City of Beaufort, SC, Fire Department has found a creative way to provide interactive fire safety education to an age group that many may feel are "unreachable" - the middle school child. While the availability of programs aimed towards this particular age group are limited, it is an age group that the fire service cannot afford to overlook, as many households today require two incomes, and with the rising costs of daycare, these "unreachable" children are those often left home alone or in charge of younger siblings.
In 2002 the City of Beaufort Fire Department made the commitment to move beyond providing fire safety awareness and towards providing fire safety education. By using a combination of programs already available, along with locally created programs, we quickly found ourselves speaking in front of many age groups and organizations on topics including fire safety and beyond.
However these programs did not seem to fit the middle school child. These are the children who are too old to be awed by the sight of fire trucks and firefighters, yet without underestimating their ability to comprehend, too young to be interested in our adult orientated programs. These are the children who are more often concerned with peer pressure and establishing their individual identity than with fire safety, and more interested in "being cool" than practicing good safety habits.
After responding to residential fires and other emergencies in which a middle school child was the oldest in the home, we made reaching this age group a goal of our department, and set out by vocalizing this desire at every opportunity. It was during a media interview with our local paper that this goal was brought to the public's attention. The article caught the eye of Beaufort Middle School's Community Liaison officer Margaret Rushton, who manages the school's Enrichment program, who then made contact with Beaufort Fire officials.
Mrs. Rushton enthusiastically invited the department to get involved and participate in this program. The idea posed a huge challenge and commitment for the department, but it was an opportunity we could not let pass, as this was a chance to "Reach the Unreachable."
The first thing that needed to be accomplished was to outline the goals of the course and what we hoped to teach:
- Fire prevention.
- An appreciation of the fire service and knowledge of what firefighters really do and experience.
- Basic fire science and how it plays into prevention and tactics, and why firefighters do what they do on the fireground - that there is more to putting out fire than just spraying water.
- Hands on experience with equipment and application of basic fireground techniques to give the students an appreciation of the knowledge and skills necessary to not only be successful on the fireground, but also have the confidence and skills to save themselves and others. Topics include: thermal imaging, search & rescue, ventilation, and salvage and overhaul to list a few.
Once the goals and the class outline (PDF) were established, the title of the class was born, "The Beaufort Fire/Rescue Youth Academy." The class, which is limited to 10 students, is taught on two consecutive days during the week and designed to build upon itself, with each class reinforcing the last. Key points are emphasized throughout the entire course such as: the leading causes of fire, leading causes of fire deaths, teamwork, communication, and knowledge of fire dynamics and how it applies to the lesson being taught.