A Visit with Fire and Life Safety Educator Jeni Pierce from the Lake Mary Fire Department

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...

The Lake Mary Fire Department was also able to purchase Sparky’s Hazard House through the FP & S grant process. This interactive tabletop display is a great visual tool for both children and adults. I use the Hazard House in conjunction with NFPA’s Risk Watch and Remembering When curriculums. The sight of smoke and the sound of smoke alarms captivate people of all ages. The display itself is easy to transport, set up and use! The Hazard House has great programs and visual displays for fire safety, falls prevention and hazardous weather, just to name a few. The visual displays have lesson pointers or key safety tips making it very easy for any educator to use.
The key to both of these programs is having a hands-on, interactive program that is followed up by brochures or handouts that each participant can take with them to remind them of the message they learned.
Dayna: What has been the most challenging aspect of being a fire safety educator?
Jeni: That would have to be the age-old problem of never enough time in the day. With the limited budgets that so many departments are facing, it is hard to find many departments that have public educators with no other duties. Sometimes it is difficult to find ways to perform inspections and teach all of the classes requested and try to attend new training classes or write grants. One thing that has worked for me is by joining a Public Educator’s Group. This group includes an educator from each of the department’s in the county and we meet every other month to discuss problems, ideas, resources and then we all teach the Juvenile Firesetters Program together. Your peers are one of your greatest assets as an educator.
Dayna: Share with us your favorite fire safety program that your department implements and tell more about the program.
Jeni: My favorite fire safety program is our annual Fire Safety Poster Contest. Each year our department sponsors a poster contest at each of the local schools. The theme of the contest is always NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week theme and the students are encouraged to draw ideas from my safety presentation or visit the NFPA’s website for ideas. The response is always amazing! Winners are invited to a special dinner at the fire station with the firefighters, local dignitaries and business sponsors. Local businesses provide donations to pay for dinner and decorations and the students are treated to a special night of fire safety fun and awards. A Grand Prize winner is chosen and that child is allowed to be “Firefighter for a Day”. On that special day we have child-sized gear for our winner and do all kinds of fun things ending with pizza and an ice cream sundae party with all of the firefighters. We have even started implementing party themes for our awards dinner. Last year we used a rock and roll theme and used the theme “Fire Safety Rocks” with music notes and inflatable guitars. It was a big hit with the kids.
Dayna: What tips or resources can you provide for fire and life safety educators that have limited or no budgets?
Jeni: There are a ton of free resources! The Unites States Fire Administration, FEMA and the Home Safety Council offer free resources as well as handouts that can be printed and reproduced. You can apply for scholarships that include free training and free resources, such as the NFPA’s Remembering When Scholarship program. There are many national companies that offer community grants such as Firehouse Subs, Target, State Farm, Home Depot and Sam’s Club. At my department, we partner with the county SafeKids coalition and receive resources as a group as well as from other members such as the Epilepsy Foundation, who provides bike helmets and the County Health Department, who provides water safety materials. The National Fire Safety Council is also a terrific program if you have a large amount of commercial businesses in your area. Depending on your department’s policy, considering asking a local company in a field related to the program you want to teach to sponsor a “lunch and learn” or other type of event. If all else fails, make your own handout or ask other public educators to share their information. Again, your peers are one of your best resources!