Training The Next Generation Of Fire Safety Educators

By now, all firefighters have surely seen the importance of teaching fire safety education to children - but where do firefighters who are actively teaching get their experience? Many of us learned by being "thrown to the wolves" in front of a...


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By now, all firefighters have surely seen the importance of teaching fire safety education to children - but where do firefighters who are actively teaching get their experience?

Many of us learned by being "thrown to the wolves" in front of a classroom full of children without any warning or preparation. In contrast, fire academy students at the Oakland Community College Fire Training Institute in Michigan get plenty of opportunity to learn, review resources and practice before going into a classroom of children. OCC's Fire Training Institute, in existence for more than a dozen years, is the largest provider of fire training in the state. Its training in fire safety education will help ensure a new generation of competent educators who can do program delivery.

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Photo by Therese R. Rasnick
Students at the Oakland Community College Fire Training Institute in Michigan learn to teach fire safety to schoolchildren.

This program has also sparked an interest in fire safety education that may not be felt when all knowledge is gained through reading about the subject in a book, without practical application. The sheer delight on the children's faces when they see a firefighter in their classroom talking to them is motivation enough for many to continue to pursue and further their department's efforts in this worthwhile area.

After the fire academy, students received classroom instruction on fire safety education as outlined in Essentials of Firefighting and each platoon (consisting of five or six students) was assigned to a classroom of children at a local school. The class information was given to academy students so they knew in advance what grade level and the number of pupils they would be responsible for teaching. The platoons were given class time to further review the numerous resources on file at the fire academy, develop a lesson plan, design and/or duplicate any handout material they wished to use and practice their program delivery to the assigned audience with fire academy instructors providing feedback.

Resources kept at the fire academy for students to use in their presentations include the National Fire Protection Association's Learn Not To Burn curriculum and resource books (call the NFPA at 800-344-3555 for a catalog or to order); the International Fire Service Training Association's Fire and Life Safety Educator's Resource Kit (call IFSTA at 800-654-4055 for a catalog or to order), Tom Kiurski's Fire Safety Training book (presentation outlines for various programs, handout materials, public service announcements and ideas for larger events are included; write to him at 38060 Donald, Livonia, MI 48154 for information), the VHS videos "Be Cool About Fire Safety" (which can be ordered through Allstate insurance offices), "Plan To Get Out Alive" (available through Media Tech, 110 West Hubbard, Chicago, IL 60610) and the computer-animated "Stop, Drop and Roll" public service announcement (available through Creative Vision Animation, 26913 Southwestern, Redford, MI 48239).

During the fire academy classroom presentation that featured fire safety education, students were given basic instruction in teaching to an audience, and shown several tapes of firefighters giving a presentation for them to critique. Several exercises involving role-playing provided more practical application to the students.

Academy students were given time in the class about two weeks after the initial fire safety education presentation to meet again with their platoon to further hone their outline and presentation skills. The fire academy requires that all academy students present a portion of the classroom outline while in front of the class. The academy feels that this is important in getting some of the students over a "fear" of speaking in front of a group. Children are a forgiving audience, and a fire academy instructor is in every classroom should they be needed. Any handout material is reviewed for age-appropriate subject matter, spelling and grammar. Instructors suggest that platoons personalize any material made by group members to add to their portfolio.

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