Anaheim teaches fire safety to students over school district’s closed-circuit TV
FIRES can be prevented. Fire Chief Ed Stringer of Anaheim, Calif., is firmly convinced. Because of his belief that fire prevention education can reduce the loss of life and property due to fire, Anaheim’s Junior Fire Prevention Program was begun in the city’s seven schools in the 1951 school year.
The immediate motive that prompted Chief Stringer to begin the first Junior Fire Prevention Program in Orange County was an incident that could have had tragic results. One warm July afternoon in 1951, three restless young boys were “killing some time” in the antiquated Anaheim library. One of the boys threw down his volume of Huckleberry Finn, exclaiming that he wanted a little excitement. His two companions agreed. They decided that starting a fire in a waste basket in the men’s rest room would be a pretty good adventure. They started the fire, but an alert librarian smelled the smoke, and the Anaheim Fire Department put out the blaze before it caused any major damage.
Junior firemen receive badges
During the first year of the program, 195 badges were issued to the city’s junior firemen. At the time there were slightly more than 15,000 persons residing in the city. During the next several years, however, Anaheim was engulfed in a tremendous population boom in which her population soared to its present figure of 110,000.
This increase jeopardized the continuation of the program. How could the fire department continue the task of educating the men and women of tomorrow for the fight against fire? The school district’s closed circuit television system was the answer.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Shanks extended a cordial invitation to the city to use the television system for this worthwhile project. Last year the fire department put on four telecasts. The first presentation was to the schools’ 60 fifth-grade teachers, and explained the program and outlined the teachers’ duties. The second and third telecasts were aimed at the fifth-grade level, and explained fire safety with the use of interesting demonstrations. Those three telecasts were all beamed from the school district’s television studio. The final program was telecast by remote control, and showed all of the city’s fire equipment and explained how it was used.
The results of the fire department’s first year on television have been most gratifying. Both parents and teachers have praised the department for its professional-type presentations. The fifth graders have responded favorably to this new media; and as a result, a higher ratio of junior firemen badges have been awarded than before the television programs were begun. A tremendous savings in time has also resulted from the telecasts. Prior to using television, two fire inspectors were kept busy five months out of the year with this educational program. Now this same coverage has been reduced to only 30 hours. Originally, the fire inspectors made four visits to each class room yearly. With the use of television these visits have been cut to two; one visit to answer specific questions and the second to award the junior firemen their badges. The fifth-grade school teachers now carry a great deal of the responsibility that was previously carried by the fire department. Last year 2,280 children and 60 teachers participated in the program in 23 schools. This year the number of schools has been increased to 25 and the number of students and teachers has increased proportionately. The importance of the program, however, should not be measured by the number of participating children but by the minimal number of fires. Since television was adopted by the fire department, the number of malicious mischief complaints and false alarms has shown a marked decrease.
This year the first of five planned telecasts had already been presented when this article was written during the first week of 1961. Enthusiasm is even greater than it was last year. Fire Inspector Garth Menges conducts the programs under the direction of Battalion Chief Bobbie Phillips. Each program lasts about 30 minutes; another 30 minutes is required for rehearsal.
Big plans for future
Big plans loom in the future for Anaheim’s televised fire education programs. The department plans to give seasonal hints to the students on such items as holiday fire safety, spring clean-up, and the brush fire hazard during dry and windy seasons. Additional remote telecasts showing the facilities in the headquarters station, rescue work on the drill tower, and the department answering actual calls were in the planning stage early this year. It was also planned to show fire prevention cartoons by the Disney Studio on the program.
The Anaheim Fire Department is proud of its televised junior fire prevention program, and will be happy to furnish any interested city with more details of the program. A cordial welcome awaits all who would like to view the program at the Anaheim studio.