January Roundtable Responses: Public Education

Question: What public education programs does your department provide to the civilians in your community? CLICK HERE for Skip Coleman’s original response. Below are reader’s replies to the topic. To discuss this topic, go to our Roundtable Revisited group on the Fire Engineering Training Community.
Deputy Chief Thomas Dunne
Response: The FDNY uses both field units and fire safety educators to foster public safety education. Fire safety literature (in numerous languages) is distributed and a number of programs are in place.
A dedicated fire safety education unit targets both younger and older residents by visiting elementary schools and senior citizen centers. To provide more “hands on” training apartment mock ups are available that highlight fire hazards in various rooms and use theatric smoke to allow participants to practice exiting in a fire environment. These props are available in a permanent location at the New York City fire Museum in Manhattan as well as in a mobile fire safety trailer.
Seasonal fire issues are also addressed. Most recently, for example, the media was invited to our training academy to view a presentation on holiday fire safety. A controlled burn of a Christmas tree was conducted to demonstrate the explosive dangers they can present. Again, the emphasis is on practical, realistic safety issues.
Our field units also get involved in public education when school children visit fire stations. This allows students to meet our personnel, learn fire safety, and get to know what we are all about rather than seeing us as just another building in the neighborhood. In addition, when a fatality does occur at a fire the local fire unit performs a “fatal fire campaign”. This door to door activity stresses the issues that may have contributed to the tragedy.
Fire fatalities have been in the decline in New York City and public safety education has no doubt been a contributing factor.     
Gary Seidel, Fire Chief
Hillsboro (OR) Fire Department
Response: The Hillsboro Fire Department’s Public Education Unit is dedicated to prevent or reduce deaths, injuries and property loss through a comprehensive public education program. Some of our significant programs include: Youth Outreach – We take an active role in regional planning for children safety by participating in the Safe Kids Coalition. Some examples are our partnership in life vests for visitors to Hagg Lake (who don’t have a life vest). In addition, we participate at the annual Safe Kids at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

We are involved in the Multi-Family Housing Program where we focus our attention to apartment communities where the safety of one affects the safety of all. This program gathers all landlords in a Safety Training Forum on a quarterly basis.

In addition, we are involved in the School-to-Work Program where our firefighters and educators work closely with the Hillsboro School District to ensure children learn the right safety topics at the right age so they can make better decisions in the future. As they approach high school, we provide opportunities for students to learn more about fire safety and firefighting as a career. We also deliver a Spanish Language Outreach Program.

Chief Rick Lasky
Lewisville (TX) Fire Department
Response: As for the long standing “discussion” regarding pub-ed and whether or not it’s effective, here you go, it is! Teaching people how to not get into trouble in the first place and how to get out of it when it strikes, is and always will be one of the best ways to keep firefighters alive. Educating, preparing, and re-enforcing those objectives and lessons have made a tremendous difference over the years. Unfortunately we, we meaning us fire folks, DO NOT emphasize them enough! Unfortunately most in the fire service don’t see public education as sexy as the whole suppressing fires side of things.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m a firefighter, a truckie, and I like to go to the next “job” just like most firefighters, but I’ve also wore myself out trying to figure out just how we can keep more firefighters alive each year. Bottom line is as long as there are people we are going to go to work, to fires. But taking a stance of not wanting to be proactive is really not the platform anyone should be working from within this profession.  

In Lewisville, our Fire Prevention folks as well as our line personnel do a very good job when it comes to educating the public. Could we do better? Absolutely! Heck that goes with anything we do. But we try to get out or in (when they come to a firehouse) and reach out to our community in several different areas. We like many fire departments instruct those in our community in a variety of areas and levels regarding fire prevention (fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, CO, etc.), but also include many other areas as well such as swimmer and boater safety and disaster preparation which is huge and covers so many areas that there isn’t enough room to list them here.

Simply put, if we are really, truly, going to believe in and support the concept that “Everyone Goes Home,” then a major part of that has to be educating the public on how not to get themselves, and us, into trouble in the first place.
Chief John Staley
Thornton (CO) Fire/Rescue
Response: We have a dedicated position for Fire and Life Safety education. This person is more of a facilitator than an instructor. We have a characterization team comprised of line firefighter/paramedics, a fire protection engineer and a dispatcher. They focus their programs of fire and injury prevention on elementary age children. We have two juvenile fire-setter intervention specialists and work with our juvenile court system. We have car safety seat technicians. We are currently working on a senior citizen fire and medical response education program. This program addresses special needs seniors and involves smoke detector installation and the use of Knox boxes for those with special needs. We will be doing annual risk assessments as soon as we hire a new Fire and Life Safety educator; the position is vacant due to retirement. We serve a population of 121,000 and everyone, including the Fire Chief participates in public education. We offer station tours with safety messages and we participate in health fairs as well as offering a fire safety house tour at four city sponsored festivals annually.
Stacie Durham, Fire & Life Safety Education Coordinator
McKinney (TX) Fire Department
Response: Risk Watch in all elementary and middle schools through the physical education programs; Remembering When for Seniors; Out to Alarm Texas free smoke alarm program to low income and elderly; Citizens Fire Academy; Station tours; Fire extinguisher training & exit planning; participation in community events; Fire and Life Safety Clowns; Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Program.
Lori Schmidt, Civilian, Public Education Officer
Scottsdale (AZ) Fire Department
Response: CLICK HERE for a PDF document of all the Scottsdale programs.
Kent Landsberg, Life And Fire safety educator
Mobile (AL) Fire Rescue

Response: I use the “NO Dragons for Tea” fire safety for children a book by Pendzwol. Firefighters need only hand the book to the teachers to read and point out items as they are mentioned in the story. I also use “Dusty the Smoke Smeller Dragon” Puppet routine by Steve Axtell.com for a great Ventriloquist type show . We have provided every elementary school library in Alabama with copies of the book so teachers and librarians can teach the 6 fire escape skills every child should know. We have also provided copies of the new interactive fire safety teaching cds from Fire facts.org so that teachers can show a virtual fire truck rides,simulated fire escape drills, and safety messages. When teachers show the programs and the children talk later to firefighters, they already know most of the information that can save their lives.See Firehouse Magazine April 2008 “Fire Departments Discover Dragons” by Greta Sharp.

Just started our newest program “Disaster and evacuation education for kids” A talking Toucan robot /puppet talks about what a disaster is and when you “Got to know when to Go”.Also included is what you need to take to a storm shelter. 

William Smith, Fire Engineer / Pub-Ed Presenter
City of Roseville (CA) Fire Department
Response: For the past few years the City of Roseville has presented the majority of its Pub-Ed via “School Rallies.” About a dozen line members share the responsibilities to cover about 30 schools. The presentations are based on the FireFacts lessons as prepared by www.FireFacts.org. Also, each student last year was given a take home FireFacts cd-rom that was donated by local Farmers Insurance office. These school rallies allow us to get maximum impact with minimal time. In an hours time we can see nearly 200 kids in a fun, energy charged presentation. When the cd-rom is included, each child has a take home resource that gets the student, their siblings, parents and friends involved in learning more about fire safety.
Marie Willoughby, fire Inspector
Northern Lakes (ID) Fire Protection District
Response: We are part of a Fire Prevention Co-op made up of all nine fire departments in Kootenai County as well as Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. In April we visit all of the 1st grade classes as well as participating in community events such as an annual safety fair, kid’s day in the park and the county fair. We have a fire safety learning trailer that is used at events and school visits and is available to all of the co-op members. Northern Lakes Fire visits 1st and 2nd graders in October where the duty crew talks to the kids. This helps reinforce the lessons learned in April. We also have a Bullex fire extinguisher training system and annually conduct classes for several companies and the list is growing. We have had a fire safety talk with a couple of the senior communities in our fire district. And a lot of the fire code inspections are educational opportunities
Don Porth, Senior Fire Inspector/Director of Public Education
Portland (OR) Fire & Rescue
Response: I read Skip Coleman’s article with great interest. His points are well made and what I believe to be very accurate. While I agree that public educators are very creative, tenacious personalities who will get the job done no matter what (hmm, much like all firefighters), fire department administrators could use similar zeal to assist them. What if every new recruit began their career in public education before ever pulling a hose line? While a fire isn’t fought every day and a medical emergency isn’t resolved every day, public contact can be a certainty. Would an approach like this send a different message to the malleable recruit at the onset of their career? What about treating public education with the same respect as other “technical specialties?” After all, don’t they need special individuals, special training, and special tools to do the job properly? Good conditions and respect draw better people to the professional discipline. These are administrative mandates that go far beyond funding and staffing. I wonder if they, coupled with other support and vision, might move our efforts to prevent fires, fire loss, fire death, and unintentional injury to the next level.
Patrick G. Collier, P.I.O.
Frankfort (IL) Fire Protection District
Response: 35 years-Babysitter/Latch-Key Kid Program-kids (F-M) 10-18 yrs old-7 weeks at 2.5 hrs-final test/certificate/party. 2 & 3 generation participants (Little Girl in 76 class – grows up – becomes a Mom – the sitter for her child is in the program – Mom’s child is now 10 – THEY are in the program – NOW the child grows up – become Moms – and the sitter for Their children – are in the class.)
30 years-Fire Cadet Program-young people (F-M) from 16-21 yrs old-study the life of the FF/EMS career. At 21 the successful participant may have an Illinois IDPH EMT-B license & ILL state FF-II cert from Illinois OSFM as well be almost completed with an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science from the local Community College Joliet Junior College or Moraine Valley Community College. The presiding Chief of Downers Grove was a Frankfort Fire Cadet. The Assistant Chief of Suppression & Rescue for the Frankfort Fire District was a Frankfort Fire Cadet. Frankfort Fire Cadets are Illinois wide and Nationwide in the National Fire Service.  

16 years – Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial – Area departments – citizens – children come together to show support for the area'[s fire service members – procession to a church – service in church – Memorial Roll Call/Tower Bell Toll – procession to Frankfort Fire Administration – to Frankfort Firefighter’s Memorial site – Flag lowering/Bells 3-3-5/Taps – Companies dismissed – Camaraderie and Brotherhood.

Brianna Goodwin, Civilian – Fire and Life Safety Educator
Colorado Springs (CO) Fire Department
Response: We currently offer the following Public Education Programs to civilians in our community. This list is significantly reduced from years past due to budget cuts and layoffs of personnel.
1.      Juvenile Firesetting Intervention Program
2.      Juvenile Firesetting Prevention Program for Middle Schools – FireFactor
3.      Injury Prevention Program
4.      Fire and Life Safety Consortium for school personnel

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