Putting a Stop to the Fire Problem Begins with Public Education

Fire safety education has to be training, and we have to train our citizens to be successful in preventing and surviving fires the same way we train our firefighters to extinguish them.


Fire safety education has to be training, and we have to train our citizens to be successful in preventing and surviving fires the same way we train our firefighters to extinguish them.

Teaching fire safety education has to be more than lecture! It has to be more than catchy phrases and fire hats if we ever hope to make a difference! It has to be more than showing off the engine and playing games! Fire safety education has to be training, and we have to train our citizens to be successful in preventing and surviving fires the same way we train our firefighters to extinguish them. We must...or we will never see our community fire problems drop.

The following is from our own IFSTA Fire Instructor manual; our goal as public educators is not only for our students to learn, but to retain. According to this manual, a student:

  • Learns 11% of what they hear
  • Learns 83% of what they see
  • Retains 50% of what they see and hear
  • Retains 90% of what they say while doing

If these numbers are good enough to guide our instruction to our firefighters, then they are good enough to guide our instruction to the citizens we protect. If we are serious about preventing fires in our communities, then we must take a serious look at how we are conducting fire safety education in our communities.

The City of Beaufort was fortunate enough to be awarded a federal grant through the Assistance to Firefighters grant program to purchase a mobile education house. This house is front and center in our fire safety training programs because it utilizes visual, auditory, and tactile senses, the whole spectrum needed to enhance learning and retention, and has become quite popular in our community. In 2006, it was deployed 90 times, with 4,922 of our citizens receiving fire safety training in the house. However, you do not have to have a house to conduct successful fire safety training, just creative.

We instruct two variations of our fire safety training program in the house to accommodate what we have categorized as two different learning groups, each with their own safety issues and learning styles; the elementary school age child and the adults, which include teenagers starting at the middle school.

When working with the children, as always, in order for learning to take place, the student must be prepared to learn. As the children come into the house they are first greeted with stuffed animals, puppets and popular cartoon characters on display on the shelves and counters. Rapport is everything, and if a young child sees that your are versed in Sponge Bob, rapport is instant, and that is imperative to the learning process.

Within our education house we have stadium seating which allows us a "classroom" type setup with the ability to show videos. When we do use the lecture method in this "classroom," we do so in a question and answer format, challenging the students to come up with their own answers, and in essence - "to say while imaging (doing)," with our guidance only. This is also helpful when doing a repeat class the next year because this allows you to see what they have retained and gives you an opportunity to adjust your program.

In the "classroom," we discuss the following topics with the appropriate age groups:

Elementary school age - What firefighters do, how and when to call 911, smoke detectors and what to do when it goes off, where the smoke detectors should be located (their homework assignment is to go home and stand in their bedroom doorway and look up outside their bedroom in the hallway, and they should have a detector), matches and lighters (with older children we emphasize being responsible with such tools in front of younger children).

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