Have you ever been looking for some ideas to spice up your fire safety education program? Are you looking to do something more than stand up in front of a classroom full of students and just talk about fire safety? If so, in the next few articles I will try to give you some different ideas that can help you spice up your program, get kids more involved and create a better learning environment that is fun.
One program you might try is doing an actual hands-on "Hunt for Hazards" program. At the Berkley Fire Rescue Department, we have taken some hazards that you might find in a normal everyday all-American house and cleaned them up, straightened them out, and done what ever it takes to make them safe. Once that was done, with permission of the school system, we took and "booby trapped" a classroom. The idea behind the program is to take a group of students through the room and let them find as many of the hazards you have set up as they can. Some will find a few, some will find all and some will find extra ones. The idea is to get them thinking about what a hazard is, and then send them home so they can take a look around their own home to see if any of these same or similar hazards are present. Even though it is vital to know how to respond to an emergency, in my book it is even better to stop an emergency before it happens.
The hazards that can be set up can be fire hazards, medical hazards, choking hazards, and safety hazards. The list goes on as far as your imagination will take you. Some can be simple, and depending on your imagination and creativity, some can be complex. Hazards can range from an extension cord under a rug, to a smoke detector on a counter with no battery in it, to lighters and matches left out in easy reach.
The key is to make sure that all hazards have been made safe before you bring them into a classroom. This takes a little (OK a lot) of preparation on your part before even running the class. Examples of hazards can run from fireworks that have been made inert (I got mine from the State Police Bomb Squad), to a small LP-gas bottle that has been completely emptied and cleaned out, or a gasoline can that has never been used to hold gasoline. If you want to show an overloaded plug, take a small piece of sheet rock and put an electrical outlet in it. That way when you plug in your coffeemaker, electric frying pan, hair dryer, blender and extension cord running to a portable heater (or anything else you might plug into an outlet) instead of using a live outlet you are actually using a dummy one. Bleach and ammonia next to each other also usually creates a good discussion.
Most kids are usually just starting to help out at home and most don't realize that mixing bleach and ammonia (even in a sponge) can create a poisonous gas. If you use these, make sure you have thoroughly emptied and cleaned both bottles and consider only having water in them. If you are artistic (or know someone who is) you can make a fireplace out of a cardboard box. This can act as several hazards. It could be a fireplace with no screen or perhaps put mittens and gloves too close to the flame. If you need a stove and your classroom doesn't have one, you may be able to get a toy stove donated. (I got mine from the "Free table" at our local recycling center)
This program seems to work very well with 3rd, 4th, and/or 5th graders. It also works very well as a two-day program. That way you can spend the first day talking about hazards and what they are and then spend the second day actually doing the search. If only one day is used then spend about 10 minutes on an introduction, about 15 minutes doing the search and then about 20 minutes talking about what the kids found. If you have more that a 45-minute period, use the extra time at the end to talk about what the kids found. This discussion could go on for an hour in some cases.