1. #1
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    Default Scaring the kids

    Maybe others have had this happen.
    You go to the local grade school for a public service event and you are showing the preschoolers what a firefighter looks like all packed up and ready to go.
    I did that the other day and while my Chief was explaining that the hood I was pulling over my head was to protect my head from heat,4 kids started screaming,crying and grabbing for teachers.I hadn't put on anything but the hood to start.
    It may have been that I was using the black Nomex hood since I had rotated to it after cleaning both of mine(one's tan,one's black)but I thought that the facepeice was supposed to scare the H outta the kids when seeing a firefighter.Aren't they supposed to think of the turnout coat and bunker pants as a really big snowsuit?
    Later on,two of them did come up to see me and touch my gear and find out that I really wasn't a monster but the other 2 didn't and of them one recognized me as scary even AFTER I had my gear off and was just standing around in BDU's and department shirt.She wouldn't come near me even with a teacher holding her hand.
    This isn't something I'm losing sleep over but according to my niecelings,I am the "uncleyest Uncle"so it bothers me when kids act afraid of me.
    I especially don't want kids to run from me should I come to their house and have to crawl around looking for them.If it comes to that,I'd rather be scuffing my boots next to the rig saying"Shucks,warnt nuthin".

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    Last time I did it the Darth Vader breathing from the SCBA got a few nuts
    A man has to have something to believe in & I believe I'll have another beer.

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    Talking

    One thing our department does is to make sure the person getting dressed up talks to the kids. Not someone else for the very young ones. They have to know that you are not Darth Vader or some monster from the cartoons. The older ones can understand more than the Pre-school / Kindergarden aged kids.

    Talking to them every step of the way and getting them to say that you are not some monster can help them understand. The snow suit thing works with explaining the turnouts. Along that line a nomex type hood will be like a ski mask.

    Talking to the teacher(s) for background on kids that have had some bad experience lately may be a good thing too.

    Just some thoughts.....

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    I taught fire prevention at my old company. With the real young kids (pre-k) and kindergarden we have the firefighters come in in plain clothes, then they put on there turnouts slowly while the instructor explains. Before he puts a piece of equiptment on it is passed around to the kids so they can see how it feels. After he is fully dressed we had them crawl around (room darkened) with flashlights, tools, scba. Then they took off there bunkers infront of the kids and as each piece came off it was passed to the kids and they were asked if they remembered what that piece was used for. By dressing the firefighters infront of the kids and then undressing them infront of the kids worked better to disarm the kids. With the younger ones, haveing the fully decked out firefighters come in, right off the bat, sometimes will scare them enough that they dont even watch the rest as they firefighters take off there bunkers.

    For the older kids (1st through 5th) it is usually ok to just bring the firefighters in in full bunkers. With these kids we had a set of bunkers that were just a little big on them, so all the kids, if they wanted, could try on the gear and see what it was like.
    We found that alot of the kids were supprisingly also afraid of the fire hose.
    so a made a platform and on the top I put a sheet metal cutout of flames all painted up and had a firefighter with a 1 3/4 line, in full gear hold the line and the kids could come up and open the line up and direct it and knock the cutout off the stand, we just kept the line pressure at like 75 so 1 firefighter had no problem holding the line. The kids loved this and the parents loved taking that picture.

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    This is the age that I really love to teach. Here is what we do..(short version)

    We roll out a chunk of carpet on the floor and have the kids sit on the floor. Myself or someone will sit down with them and talk about our special protective gear and let them touch and try on a helmet or a coat. Then show them how we change from one uniform to the other by slowly getting into the gear right in front of them and stressing that the firefighter is still the same person, just looks differently. As he/she gets all dressed up, with SCBA, they talk to the kids as well and they get to hear the firefighter talk and can walk up and touch too. This has very possitive effects, very rarely do we get anyone that is scared.

    Then the dressed firefighter will sit with the kids and then we talk about smoke detectors and when it goes of to have a "fire drill" at home just like at school. We will hold a blanket just over the floor and they have to do the "army crawl" with the firefighter to stay under the smoke. Or.....we will talk about when their clothes catch on fire and everyone gets a chance to stop, drop, and roll on the carpet.

    We get a lot of good feedback from both kids and teachers. I have had kids I taught this when they were young and they still remember that mention that at one of their next classes as they get older or will remember that at some other public function.

    There is no better feeling than to have a kid come up to you and say " I remember you...."
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    The guy that heads our program has been dressing the classroom teacher in bunker gear for the past few years. Gives the kids somebody they KNOW to watch, and the teacher can usually spot fear as it develops and head it off at the pass.

    Yes, the gear fits them horribly. But the kids don't know that, the teacher doesn't know that, and it's not like we're gonna send her on interior attack. In two years of helping out i've not seen a pre-schooler or kindergartner freak out yet. The lesson taught is that the person in the gear could be anybody, even their teacher.

    earl

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    Like I said,I don't like scaring kids.I'm the coolest Uncle alive,according to my niecelings so when those girls started crying the other day,it bothered me.
    BTW,the next evening me and another guy had the same engine out to the same school for the fall festival there and Lo and behold,the little girl that wouldn't get near me even after I got the gear off came up with her parents.
    She was still apprehensive about getting near the truck but with Mommy and Daddy nearby,she did it.
    Just to be sure,I let my buddy handle talking to her and repeating what Chief had said about "Stop,drop and roll" and not to be afraid of the firefighters when they are looking for them.
    She even smiled at me when she came out so maybe she got over it.
    I sure hope so.
    Also,on Preschool day,we did get a teacher packed up to show the kids someone they knew.Later on I got asked"The Fat Question"as in:"Do these -what do you call them-bunker pants make my butt look big?"
    Because she didn't look like any teacher I'd ever had,I was biting my tongue to keep from answering something that has no right answer and my LT was laughing his head off behind her.
    Last edited by doughesson; 10-02-2005 at 03:01 PM.

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    I have noticed two big things which keep the scary factor down with younger children.

    The first is for the firefighter who is going to be putting on the gear to be doing the talking (or at least most of it). By doing the introduction or some other part of the program, he or she develops some rapport. By the time the gear goes on, most of the kid's fears are offset by the few minutes of developed trust.

    The second trick is to get down on the childrens' level and stay there. I've done more public education on my hands and knees than I have my feet. There's a time and place to stand up and be the authority figure, and I don't think that this is one of those times.

    Most children these days are pretty sophisticated and understand the concepts of SCUBA divers and the Darth Vader sound. When you introduce the SCBA a little explanation up front goes a long way.

    I've had great fun dressing up willing teachers or TA's. If you have a digital camera handy you can leave a picture with the teacher so the image of the bunker gear stays around the classroom for several days at least.

    There are some guys on my department who absolutely detest doing public education. For the life of me I can't understand why - I have a ball doing it, and so does my crew.
    ullrichk
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    The other thing that I've found when dealing with scared kids, is to do somthing really stupid, that's going to make them laugh their asses off, doesn't take much to get a whole group of first graders laughing, once the group starts even the scared ones will laugh and realize it's nothing to be frightened of.
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    Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to control it.

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    I've only been on my volunteer department two years,just long enough to get all the hours needed for the FF I and II tests and to pass the skills portion.I love going to schools and helping show kids what a firefighter looks like.Especially when I am out of work,it helps to fill the day or it's a change of pace if I can squeeze it in on my lunch hour at my"real job".
    I don't understand why any firefighter wouldn't want to help kids get used to how we look when we are working or just show the rig off.Anything that can reduce a child's fear of a large object hissing with a flashing light or two on it will go a long way to a kid better understanding why not to play with matches or candles.

    Quote Originally Posted by ullrichk

    I've had great fun dressing up willing teachers or TA's. If you have a digital camera handy you can leave a picture with the teacher so the image of the bunker gear stays around the classroom for several days at least.

    There are some guys on my department who absolutely detest doing public education. For the life of me I can't understand why - I have a ball doing it, and so does my crew.
    Last edited by doughesson; 10-03-2005 at 03:13 PM.

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    Well, I just hit the wrong button so I have to re-type this!

    My dept's SCBA's masks look like pig snouts, so you can use that reference, too.

    You can also play "dress the firefighter" and have the kids think about what goes on in what order, etc. Then get on your hands and knees and have the kids come over and touch you as some may think that they will be looking for feet, not realizing that you're not standing up. (Reinforices that stay low and crawl information, too.)

    Another "game" to play -- ask what do they (or don't they) do -- Do you hide a closet? Do you hide under your bed? Do you hide in your toybox? After each "no", remind them that they stay by a window or door (preferrably a closed one, but these are little kids with short attention spans) and wait for the firefighter with the Darth Vader noise, if they can't make it out on their own to their family meeting place.

    Regarding "stop, drop, and roll" -- remember to add in case your clothes catch on fire. There's a video clip that asks a child what to do in case of a fire and the child responds "stop, drop, and roll". Also good to add: cover your face while you're rolling around.
    "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
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    We Find dressing up the teacher is a great way to have the kids really take note and not have any fears. Our program has a firefighter narrating, another putting gear on at the same time the teacher does (only teacher does not get SCBA). We definitely cater to the k-2 level as I am a kid at heart and can get to their level and still have them retain the information. The kids can even remember the two firefighters in public weeks after the program which we do annually.

    It is usually the small smoke house we have that freaks some kids out but we go through it with them. After seeing us in the classroom, they trust us and want us to go with them.

    There is always the occasional child who has a challenge which we need to be aware of. Be respectful of that but teach to the level of the majority of the classes. Chances are the next year that one child sees you again he'll remember and not have fear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattcvt
    There is always the occasional child who has a challenge which we need to be aware of. Be respectful of that but teach to the level of the majority of the classes. Chances are the next year that one child sees you again he'll remember and not have fear.
    A good idea with mainstreaming being so popular these days, as well. Make sure you know ahead of time if there is anyone in your audience with "special needs" and see if you can adapt to them or at least have information available for their parents. I know of a child with MD who uses a wheelchair and a child (who was born too early) who uses a walking stick since she can't see too well. Maybe even see if that child's parent can attend the program, too.
    "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
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    I had a funny one a few years ago- we were called to a job late at night and our crew had been stomping around up on the roof making loads of noise.

    I went inside to talk with the owners dressed in full turn out gear and there was alittle kid (about 4) being all shy sticking his head around the corner and looking at me, but not coming out.

    His dad eventually coaxed him out and and said, "It's OK, they're here to help us, he won't hurt you, will you?"

    My reply (And to this day, I don't know where it came from!), "No, I don't mind kids, they taste like chicken"

    Needless to say, the kid took off with his mum in hot pursuit making sure he was OK and the dad wasn't too impressed, either...
    Luke

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    As the public education coordinator for my department, I use 2 variations of "Firefighter Isn't A Monster". The first version is pretty straightforward and has been well described by the other posters, where the firefighter gets dressed in front of the kids fully describing what he is doing the whole time.
    The second version, which is the ole'classic confused firefighter version often works well with younger audiences. the firefighter seems confused about gearing up ... he tries to get into the bunker pants backwards, not sure how to pull them up , coat goes on wrong etc etc.... it really keeps the kids involved and forces them to "help" the firefighter to get dressed. It usually creates a VERY fun and relaxed atmosphere and provides planty of laughs for all involved.

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    LA Fire Educator: Great idea for version two. Do you mind if I borrow it for next year?

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    We did another two shows at the other elementary school in our district on Thursday and the thing that spooked the kids this time was the engine.We were going to have them climb aboard for a group shot and every child present asked the same question:"Are we going to a fire?"I guess they thought that we were going to a fire and put them to work.
    Telling them that it was just like a big minivan helped calm them down.Only one girl cried this time but I think it was getting close to naptime for her anyway.
    Note,everytime at both schools,when we let the kids get into the seats,the first thing they did was try to figure out how to put the seatbelts on.Repeated teaching does work,even if we weren't going to move the truck with them in it.
    After I got into my gear,we had another group shot and I took them around the rig to show them the vent fan,the shears and spreaders,the medical compartment and the hose trays.
    One little girl noticed the Dalmatian toy on the dashboard and asked for it.I told her that the driver of the truck kept that dog as a pet and would cry if it ran off.
    Like I said,I like this part of the job and would rather do it than the job of looking for them in their house.

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    Not at all Matt, and in fact I'll be coming up to the Burlington area around Christmas to see my kids ... send me your email and I'll even show it to ya in person if you want.

    I was on Essex Town and Colchester Center for about 17 years before moving down here 3 years ago.

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    we brought smokey the bear with us and he scared more kids than we did with all our gear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator
    The second version, which is the ole'classic confused firefighter version often works well with younger audiences. the firefighter seems confused about gearing up ... he tries to get into the bunker pants backwards, not sure how to pull them up , coat goes on wrong etc etc.... it really keeps the kids involved and forces them to "help" the firefighter to get dressed. It usually creates a VERY fun and relaxed atmosphere and provides planty of laughs for all involved.
    This was a cool idea.....I used it today, except we used thier teacher to dress up first....the kid's were laughing so hard that they didn't have time to cry

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    I have never had a kid scared at me or another ff but a neighboring dept did have kids start screaming when they tried to put the pump in gear to let them spray water just a little bit.
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