By David Volz
One of the best tools a firefighter can have is education. If the people a firefighter is trying to save know what to do in a burning building, there is a greater likelihood they will survive a burning building.
The city of Coral Springs, Florida, has established a program known as Safety Town to educate children on the basics of staying safe. The program is geared to kindergarten-aged children who learn the basics of personal safety. Topics include:
- personal safety
- emergency information
- traffic safety
- canal safety
- critters/poisons, and
- fire safety
And the program works. Following a house fire, Charles Bass, fire inspector for Coral Springs, met with a boy who had survived the fire. He said that what he learned at Safety Town gave him the knowledge to survive the fire.
“I remember the first time a child came to me and said he knew how to escape a burning house because of what he learned at Safety Town. About six or eight children have told me that. I have talked with older children and teenagers who say they still remember what they learned in Safety Town. I am a believer in this program,” said Bass.
Bass said the program provides young children basic information on how to get away from a fire. “They learn to feel doors and to crawl like a baby and to have a meeting place for everyone who is living in house. Most kids don’t know what to do in a fire or how to react. This program gives kids an understanding about how to escape a burning house and what to do once they get out. We encourage them to practice fire drills at home,” said Bass.
At Safety Town, children learn basic fire safety in the Fire Safety Trailer. Fire detectors, matches, and fireplaces are discussed. The children enter the trailer, which is set up likea home. In the kitchen, the stove, oven, and microwave are discussed, as well as the dangers of leaving a towel on the stove or the direction of a pot handle.
Once in the bedroom, fire department personnel educate the children on what to do when sleeping and the fire alarm goes off. They are taught the importance of rolling onto the floor and crawling because smoke rises and good air is at ground and floor level. The children are taught the two ways out and to check a closed door to see if it is hot. An audible detector is set off and the room fills with harmless white smoke. The children lie on the floor and crawl onto the balcony to a ladder that each will climb down to escape the fire. Then they meet at a pre-designated meeting place such as a mailbox or large tree in the front yard. It is stressed that they should never go back into the house, according to Bass.
The children also learn about canal safety and how to avoid dangerous wildlife. They learn potential dangers of canals, including slippery slopes and roots that a person can trip over. Children are instructed that if they do fall into a canal, they should not panic and should work their way to the edge of the bank. They learn to avoid fire ants, scorpions, bees, and snakes. They learn not to approach alligators if they happen to see one in their backyard.
Safety Town includes a miniature street layout suitable for children. There they learn about sidewalks and the importance of staying on the right side of the road. They learn about traffic lights and what they mean. Also, the kids learn about railroad crossing and stop signs and the importance of looking right, left, and then right again before crossing. They learn about road signs, what the signs mean, and street signs. The children learn the importance of wearing a secure bicycle helmet and to not hit the bicycle rider in front of them. The children pedal around the course three times or more obeying all the signs and traffic light. They practice looking left, right, and then left before proceeding.
The children how to handle emergency situations and the proper circumstances for calling 911. They learn what to do when lost and the importance of knowing how to contact a parent or guardian. They also learn how to deal with strangers to never allow someone to touch them inappropriately.