Thank you to everyone who contacted me regarding the Fire Safety Traveling Trunk information on my last Playing it Safe blog post. If you currently utilize a fire safety traveling trunk, I would love to hear from you!
This month on the Playing Safe Blog, we are featuring Captain Peggy Harrell, Fire Safety Education Coordinator from the Plano Fire Department (TX). Peggy and I met at the National Fire Academy several years ago when I was starting my fire safety education career. She is one of the most dynamic educators that I know! Sharing program ideas and resources is a great way to help your fire safety program grow and Peggy has some amazing tips and information to share with Playing it Safe.
Peggy, tell us about yourself and how you got started in fire safety education.
I love to tell this story… I was actually teaching Deaf children and children with hearing-impairments for the Plano Independent School District. While I really enjoyed teaching, all the paperwork required for special needs classes was the only drawback. The Plano Fire Department had a brand new position posted for a fire safety educator and they were looking for someone with a background in education. My sister (a teacher also) was told about the position by a friend who thought my sister would qualify but she had just had her second child and was not interested in the work hours. She told me about the posting and I tossed the idea around and decided to throw my hat into the ring. I was very relaxed at my first interview, knowing that I had a great job teaching but once I knew what exciting things the job would entail, I was much more interested in the job. I was much more nervous for my second interview!
Have there been educators that you have looked up to throughout your career? How did they influence you?
The fire chief who hired me, Bill Peterson, and his assistant chief, Kirk Owen had already established a very progressive focus and belief within the Plano Fire Department that fire and life safety education was a very high priority. Without their support, I doubt the efforts I have made the last 15 years would have been as successful. Outside my department, I look to educators like Mary Marchone, Meri-K Appy and Peg Carson and thank them for the work they have been doing to bring fire and life safety “up the ranks” in the fire service.
Please share with us what resources you utilize in your programming and why you find these resources useful.
The National Fire Protection Association’s Learn Not to Burn, Risk Watch™ and Remembering When™ are great products to use and build the basis of your programming. Each can be adapted to a specific department’s and community’s needs. They do cost, however, and in these times more and more departments must evaluate their purchases with more scrutiny and more are looking for free and lower-costing quality products. I think this is where the Home Safety Council has filled the need. They have such wonderful and effective programs that are most often free, if not very inexpensive.
No program or product is going to be effective if it sits on a shelf. I try to get my hands on anything I am interested in before I buy it. I borrow or try to get a trial look at something before investing money in it. I also talk to people using it to see what they think. Most other educators are excited to tell you about success they have had with a program or product.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a fire safety educator?
At the top of the list of my challenges is time. When I was single I thought nothing of working late and on the weekends. Since I became married, I find that I struggle between wanting to dedicate time to something and wanting to spend time with my husband. Luckily, he is a Battalion Chief with our department so he does understand my dedication to the job.