Happy New Year!
I hope that this blog finds you well in the new year! To kick off 2010, the Playing it Safe blog will feature a fire safety educator or program monthly. Sharing program ideas and resources is a great way to help your fire safety program grow.
While on a recent trip to reveiw fire grants, I had the good fortune of meeting Fire Inspector Jeni Pierce, the Fire and Life Safety Educator from the Lake Mary (Florida) Fire Department. Jeni’s love for fire safety education, her passion for helping keep those safe in her community and her unique way in sharing the safety message, truly make Jeni an outstanding educator. What really impressed me about Jeni was the number of funding resources that she was able to obtain for her department's program. You will find some of her creative ideas for funding in this blog post as well as learn more about Jeni and her passion for fire safety.
Dayna: Jeni, tell us about yourself and how you got started in fire safety education.
Jeni: I am the Fire and Life Safety Educator for the City of Lake Mary, Florida. I have been with the Lake Mary Fire Department for 5 years and absolutely love my job! The City of Lake Mary is a small community with a resident population currently estimated at 15,000 and growing! This is up from just 9,506 residents a few years ago. With great accessibility to the Orlando area; the city is continuously attracting corporate office relocations and light manufacturing operations. In fact, Lake Mary’s daytime population exceeds 35,000. The demand for education classes is constant and is a great mix of classes for children, adults, businesses and seniors. I love the large city resources with the small town feel. I grew up as the daughter of a firefighter and am now married to a firefighter/paramedic. I guess it is true that it ‘runs in the family’! I love to interact with large groups and enjoy teaching. Being able to provide such an important message is just an added bonus.
Dayna: Have there been educators that you have looked up to throughout your career? How did they influence you?
Jeni: My father is a retired firefighter. While he reached the rank of Chief, he started as a forest ranger. When I was a child, he would work in public education on the weekends, dressing as Smokey the Bear. The way kids were in awe of him and really seemed to listen to his message stuck with me my whole life. I remember being excited as a young child any time the fire engine would visit my school.
Today, there are quite a few public educators that inspire me from both a safety standpoint and a life lesson standpoint. In Florida, we have a large association of Fire Inspectors, Fire Marshals and Educators. We are like one huge family working on legislative issues, common problems in our communities and still performing our daily jobs. There are so many who inspire me, it would be hard to name just a few. It is easy to want to be so involved when you are around such a large group of like minds who are so passionate about what they do.
Dayna: Please share with us what resources you utilize in your programming and why you find these resources useful.
Jeni: A program that seems to be extremely popular right now is portable fire extinguisher training. We currently teach this class using information and brochures, as well as both the Portable Fire Extinguisher and Workplace Safety Videos, from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). For the hands-on portion of the class, we use a portable fire extinguisher trainer purchased through the Department of Homeland Security’s Fire Prevention and Safety (FP& S) grant program. We actually have a great success story or “save”. We responded to a commercial structure fire at the United States Postal Service Distribution Center where a fire had been observed in the battery charging room. Fortunately, a postal worker activated the shunt trip and used a portable fire extinguisher to extinguish the fire. This gentleman had previously taken a Portable Fire Extinguisher training class taught by myself and another educator from our Fire Prevention Staff. He was able to maintain a clear head and prevent a much larger incident by using the training he had received and was later honored by both the Postal Service and our City Commission.