Spicing Up Your Fire Safety Education Program - Part 1

July 22, 2003
Have you ever been looking for some ideas to spice up your fire safety education program?
Have you ever been looking for some ideas to spice up your fire safety education program? Are you looking to do something more than stand up in front of a classroom full of students and just talk about fire safety? If so, in the next few articles I will try to give you some different ideas that can help you spice up your program, get kids more involved and create a better learning environment that is fun.

One program you might try is doing an actual hands-on "Hunt for Hazards" program. At the Berkley Fire Rescue Department, we have taken some hazards that you might find in a normal everyday all-American house and cleaned them up, straightened them out, and done what ever it takes to make them safe. Once that was done, with permission of the school system, we took and "booby trapped" a classroom. The idea behind the program is to take a group of students through the room and let them find as many of the hazards you have set up as they can. Some will find a few, some will find all and some will find extra ones. The idea is to get them thinking about what a hazard is, and then send them home so they can take a look around their own home to see if any of these same or similar hazards are present. Even though it is vital to know how to respond to an emergency, in my book it is even better to stop an emergency before it happens.

The hazards that can be set up can be fire hazards, medical hazards, choking hazards, and safety hazards. The list goes on as far as your imagination will take you. Some can be simple, and depending on your imagination and creativity, some can be complex. Hazards can range from an extension cord under a rug, to a smoke detector on a counter with no battery in it, to lighters and matches left out in easy reach.

The key is to make sure that all hazards have been made safe before you bring them into a classroom. This takes a little (OK a lot) of preparation on your part before even running the class. Examples of hazards can run from fireworks that have been made inert (I got mine from the State Police Bomb Squad), to a small LP-gas bottle that has been completely emptied and cleaned out, or a gasoline can that has never been used to hold gasoline. If you want to show an overloaded plug, take a small piece of sheet rock and put an electrical outlet in it. That way when you plug in your coffeemaker, electric frying pan, hair dryer, blender and extension cord running to a portable heater (or anything else you might plug into an outlet) instead of using a live outlet you are actually using a dummy one. Bleach and ammonia next to each other also usually creates a good discussion.

Most kids are usually just starting to help out at home and most don't realize that mixing bleach and ammonia (even in a sponge) can create a poisonous gas. If you use these, make sure you have thoroughly emptied and cleaned both bottles and consider only having water in them. If you are artistic (or know someone who is) you can make a fireplace out of a cardboard box. This can act as several hazards. It could be a fireplace with no screen or perhaps put mittens and gloves too close to the flame. If you need a stove and your classroom doesn't have one, you may be able to get a toy stove donated. (I got mine from the "Free table" at our local recycling center)

This program seems to work very well with 3rd, 4th, and/or 5th graders. It also works very well as a two-day program. That way you can spend the first day talking about hazards and what they are and then spend the second day actually doing the search. If only one day is used then spend about 10 minutes on an introduction, about 15 minutes doing the search and then about 20 minutes talking about what the kids found. If you have more that a 45-minute period, use the extra time at the end to talk about what the kids found. This discussion could go on for an hour in some cases.

Using approximately 25 hazards seem to work fairly well. I do this program with all three grades listed above. I have about 40 different hazards that I use but vary the hazards from grade to grade. I also expect more out of each grade. Third graders only have to identify the hazards whereas fifth graders have to write an explanation as to why they are hazards. Below is a list of some of the hazards that I have come up with. If anyone does a program similar to this and has some different ideas for hazards, please let me know. My email is [email protected]. This program is a lot of fun to do and I have found that the teachers really appreciate it as much as the students do.



1. Smoke detector on shelf with no battery (taken down because of nuisance alarm)2. Smoke detector with chirping (low) battery3. Gasoline can (clean, explain should be in garage or fire proof cabinet)4. LP-gas bottle in classroom (empty, same as gasoline)5. Overloaded outlet (Hint: use a dummy plug)6. Space heater plugged into light duty extension cord (Hint: use a dummy plug)7. Space heater with towel or curtains to close (Hint: towel can hang on chair)8. Frayed extension cord9. Extension cord run under a rug10. Extension cord with missing ground11. 3-pronged extension cord plugged into 2-pronged extension cord (ground is out over the edge)12. Fireworks (bottle rocket, firecrackers, M-80's etc. Hint: inert the fireworks)13. Matches and lighters left out (Hint: Use empty book or box and empty lighter)14. Cigarette (unlit of course) on edge of ashtray over a wastebasket15. Medicines that look like candy left out16. Green liquid in unlabeled soda bottle (could be antifreeze or pesticide)17. Poisons in lower cabinet (in reach of small child: Hint: use empty & clean bottles)18. Flammable hair sprays (explain how dangerous blow torch trick can be)19. Tacks or screws left on floor20. Plastic bag left on floor (choking hazard to infants)21. 5 gallon bucket with small amount of water in it (drowning hazard for infants)22. Fireplace with no screen23. Drying hat or mittens next to the fireplace24. Cold fireplace ashes in a paper bag (we've had several structure fires from homeowners putting their "supposedly" "cold ashes" in paper bags and then putting them out on the porch.)25. Stack of newspapers next to fireplace26. Razor knife left out (razor taken out)27. Bucket of oily rags (Hint: actually clean, only look oily)28. Hair dryer plugged in next to sink (Hint: use dummy plug)29. 6-foot extension ladder with bucket of paint on edge (Hint: use an empty paint can)30. Shirt or towel on lampshade holding in heat of light bulb31. Candles (tapered vs. in a jar, explain never leave unattended)32. Candle in a jar (explain what happens when wax gets low and metal anchor for wick heats up breaking glass)33. Bullets or shotgun shells left out (I use this to touch on never playing with real guns. If bullets are left out, gun may be also)34. No-stick vegetable oil spray next to Bug Spray (we actually had an older gentleman use the Bug Spray instead of the no-stick vegetable oil spray)35. Dummy plug with no plastic cover (little kid can get electrocuted)36. Frying pan on stove with handle facing out37. Blocked fire exit (with chairs or desk, Hint: make sure the classroom has 3 exits. In case of a real emergency you don't want to block the only other way out of the classroom)38. Charcoal grill inside (explain about CO)39. Dangling cord from coffee maker40. Missing or covered over escape plan for the classroom

Sample Lesson Plan: Hunt for Home Hazards

Lesson Plan - Grade 3,4 or 5

Instructional Materials:

  • NFPA Learn Not to Burn Curriculum #2,
  • Massachusetts Curriculum Planning Guidebook, Hazards checklist handout
  • Meet with the class and explain what a hazard is. Explain the different kinds of hazards that may be found in a home and talk about the need to identify these before they create a problem. Brainstorm with the kids what some hazards are that they may find at home or at school


  • The student will be able to explain what a hazard is.
  • The student will be able to identify different hazards in their home and school and explain why they should be taken care of.

Pre class-

  • At least 1 week before you are scheduled to run your class, talk to the principal &/or a classroom teacher to arrange for the use of a classroom for the day. This will be to set up your hazards in that room for the day. Then as you teach the class, each classroom goes to that one specific classroom.
  • The day of the class, go in to school early to set up one classroom with your hazards. Hazards can be as simple or as complex as fits your budget and time. (allow at least 15-30 minutes to set up)


(10 minutes)

  • Introduction: Introduce firefighters and give a quick synopsis of the program.
  • Explain what a hazard is and the different kinds of hazards that could be found in the home or school (i.e. fire hazard, medical hazard, slipping/tripping hazards, etc.)
  • Explain the need to identify & rectify these situations before a problem occurs.
  • Explain how you have set up one classroom with (x amount) of hazards. The object of the lesson is for the students to go to the other classroom and identify as many hazards as possible. Explain that it is all individual work and talking is not permitted.(You might suggest they act as investigative reporters) Students will need a notebook and pencil

(15 minutes)

  • Take students to the hazards classroom. Let them walk around the hazards classroom to identify as many hazards as possible. Set a time limit. Explain not to touch any of the hazards

(20 minutes)

  • Have students sit down and start a list of the hazards they found. Have them explain why each is actually a hazard.
  • At end of class re-emphasize the importance of the students doing this same thing at home.Identifying & rectifying any hazards in their home

Things to be aware of:

  • Make some hazards obvious and some not so obvious
  • Make sure all hazards are SAFE. (i.e. fireworks have been inert, gas can is clean & empty, etc.)
  • Some children will probably find more hazards than have been placed in the room.

Class is best if you have one or two days of instruction before the day of the Hunt for Hazards

Other sources which may be helpful in setting up a Hunt for Home Hazards:

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