Fire Is...Dangerous!

March 1, 2006

Dr. Frank Field was a well-known science editor at WCBS-TV in New York in 1987 when he read that this nation had one of the worst fire safety records among developed countries. As printed in Science, Dr. Field discovered that one might be safer in a third-world nation than in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.

"The article's author was Philip Schaenman of TriData Corporation in Arlington, VA. After a lengthy phone discussion with him, I realized the frightening statistics presented were real and that as an educated citizen, I had never really understood the danger of fire to my family," Dr. Field says.

To learn the truth, he turned to the men and women at local fire stations. "I listened to descriptions and the experiences of men and women who deal with fire on a daily basis: Why people died in fires; how they died; if the victims would have survived it they had known what to do; what it was like to crawl through blackness and unbelievable heat."

Dr. Field visited a burn center and spoke with patients who had experienced fire firsthand. His own misconceptions were formed mainly from movies and television: fires were bright and firefighters could race through flames without masks or helmets. He reflected on naive assumptions. "If there is a fire, I will smell smoke, wake my family and get out or fight the fire with an extinguisher or water." Many firefighters Dr. Field interviewed thought that the public understood fires are black and you are blind in a fire.

"Through high school, college or post-graduate work, fire safety education was not in the picture except for the widespread promotion of smoke detectors to safeguard the home. That was how my generation was educated."

Fire suppression was the main goal and the role of fire prevention and safety education took a back seat. That is changing.

Fire Is Not Fun

Dr. Field went on to investigate and report on several major fires in the New York area. He developed an informational series on the evening news focusing on fire safety with support from the New York City Fire Department, the New York Daily News, McDonald's and First Alert. The series won many Emmy Awards, and later became a 30-minute special and then a 45-minute video called "Plan to Get Out Alive." It is used for fire education and has saved a number of lives.

Now Dr. Field has developed an educational DVD for children. Rather than the traditional teachings that encourage children to view learning about fire as fun, "Fire Is..." - identifies fire as dangerous and shows what can happen when children are burned or killed in a blaze.

"Learning about fire is fun for kids and doesn't seem to present that much of a danger. They visit firehouses, receive coloring books and crayons, and watch fire safety-educating cartoons. Firefighters visit their school and kids have fun learning to "Stop, Drop, and Roll", he says. "My granddaughter told me how fun it was to crawl under fake smoke in a trailer house. It's been all fun learning about fire and not in the least scary."

"With a grant from MetLife Foundation to the Public Safety Foundation, my son Storm and my daughter Allison and I worked pro bono to develop the "Fire Is..." DVD. The goal is to provide a greater sense of reality for teaching fire safety and bring home the message that fire is danger," Dr. Field says.

Five segments each lasting about 15-20 minutes deliver the truth that Fire Is Hot, Fire Is Black, Fire is Smoke and Gas, Fire Is Fast and Fire Is An Emergency. Each segment is designed so that children are not overwhelmed with information all at once. There are also three segments explaining who Frank, Storm and Allison Field are.

"Fire Is..." employs a straight-talking realistic approach. It is a serious tool for parents, teachers and fire administrators. Some states and local jurisdictions are already ordering the DVD to use in the classroom. New Jersey State Fire Marshal Lawrence Petrillo ordered 2,000 DVDs for state fire stations. The Bayonne, NJ, School District was the first to bring them into the curriculum. Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), also ordered 2,000 DVDs to be distributed to 350 New York City fire stations and used in city schools.

To obtain your copy of "Fire Is...", send a check for $6, made payable to Edit On Hudson, to:

Edit On Hudson 610-A Minuet Lane Charlotte, NC 28217

For more information, contact [email protected].

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