Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighter Training, Fireground Safety

Alachua County, Florida Fire Rescue Educator Named 2004 Safety Education Hero

Washington, D.C.- The Home Safety Council (HSC) will honor Alachua County (FL) Public Educator Shirley Copeland with the 2004 Safety Education Hero Award. This distinction is sponsored by HSC in partnership with the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In appreciation of her life-saving work, Copeland was recognized during the CFSI National Fire and Emergency Services Banquet in Washington, D.C on May 5, 2004.

The Safety Education Hero Award recognizes excellence in home safety education each year by awarding an individual for saving a life or avoiding disaster through his or her work with an NFPA or HSC educational program. As this year’s recipient, Copeland will receive a $1,000 honorarium and commemorative medal from the Home Safety Council, and educational materials from NFPA.

“Shirley Copeland exemplifies what it means to be a safety education hero,” said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. “Shirley has worked tirelessly to educate her community about the importance of fire safety and we applaud her and the Alachua County Fire Rescue Department for their unwavering commitment to fire safety education.”

Copeland’s Life-Save Story
Copeland conducted a fire safety lesson with the children at Terwilliger Elementary as part of the Alachua County Fire Department’s 2003 Fire Prevention Month outreach program, using NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week (FPW) campaign materials, “When Fire Strikes: Get Out! Stay Out!” During her presentation, Copeland explained the importance of creating and practicing a family home fire escape plan, with an emphasis on conducting nighttime fire drills. Students received fire escape worksheets, which they took home to complete with their families.

Copeland’s lessons made quite an impression on Paul Jones (age 11) and Paige Jones (age 10) who immediately shared Copeland’s information with their mother. The family discussed the steps of their fire escape plan, including quickly exiting the home, calling 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s home and meeting at a designated area. Remembering Copeland’s message about the importance of nighttime fire drills, the siblings asked their mother to awaken them in the middle of the night to put their home fire escape plan into action.

Less than a month later on December 6, 2003, the family’s preparation was put to the test. In the middle of the night as the family slept, sparks from the fireplace ignited a piece of furniture. Following the family’s rehearsed escape plan, they swiftly fled to a neighbor’s home, met at their designated meeting spot and dialed 9-1-1.

Brenda Proctor now attributes her family’s safe escape to Shirley Copeland’s informative and memorable teachings. Learning of the incident, Copeland visited the family at their temporary home where she made sure they had working smoke alarms and a new fire escape plan.

“The Home Safety Council, NFPA and CFSI are invaluable partners in providing educational information and resources that I can take to classrooms in my community,” said Shirley Copeland. “I am honored to be a recipient of the 2004 Safety Education Hero Award and look forward to continuing to teach families how to prepare their home before a fire strikes.”

Alachua County Fire and Life Safety Program Summary
Each year, the Alachua County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (ACFR) educates the students of their 25 county elementary schools and four private schools through a fire prevention outreach spanning the months of September to February. In 2003 alone, ACFR reached new heights by providing fire safety education to more than 15,000 children utilizing the annual FPW campaign theme and the Risk Watch(r): Unintentional Injuries school-based safety curriculum as core elements of the program. Spearheaded by NFPA, these programs received major funding support from the Home Safety Council to develop the materials.

Home Safety Council
The Home Safety Council is a 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to helping prevent more than 20 million medical visits each year from unintentional injuries in the home. Through national programs and partners across America, the Home Safety Council works to educate and empower families to take actions that will help keep them safer in and around their homes. To learn more about the Council’s programs, partnerships and resources visit the Home Safety Council at