Thursday, July 18, 2013

Are You a Fire Education Partner, or Just Another Commercial?

When your department wants to reach out to youngsters concerning fire and burn prevention messages, do you partner with local schools or merely ask for a small time slot?

Each year fire departments across the nation reach out to local schools for an opportunity to accomplish some of their public education goals. Often this effort involves visits by shift personnel and equipment, or school classroom visits by firefighters with messages on fire safety.

“Stop, Drop and Roll” is an old standby and along with other common and equally important and valuable messages, bur often are offered through a slot of time opened up by the school.  Though important, these visits are sometimes even an interruption of previously planned curriculum and schedules already strained by days missed due to weather or other unforeseen scheduling challenges. Once you leave the school, sometimes the message goes with you.

Many years ago, assigned the responsibility of public education in my department, I was tasked with scheduling some of these visits to schools. Instead of merely looking for potential openings or educators willing to adjust schedules to “fit us in”, I chose to meet with the curriculum committee first. At that first meeting, I explained our messaging priorities – specifically for grades K through 3rd  -- and asked them as professional educators what would be the best ways to share these messages with their students. The response was both enthusiastic and impressive.

Partnering with those actually planning the curriculum for the following year resulted in not only in more time with students than I had expected, but several teachers had taken the NFPA recommended public education themes and suggestions and built fun and hands on lesson plans and projects that each grade could embrace and absorb. Fire Prevention Week in October became much more than a week of school fire drills and school kids outside the school ringing the bell on a fire engine.

Plan your annual fire and burn prevention education priorities a year ahead of time, and with the help and advice of your local educators.  NFPA continues to provide excellent resources and Safety Information for Public Educators along with an outstanding overview of the Impact of Safety Messages on Children. The latter offers both a detailed report and a shorter executive summary in PDF form.

Be a partner in fire and burn prevention education, instead of just an occasional commercial.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips, Rick. I agree -- teachers are short on time and their jobs have become dependent on the success of students' learning in "core" areas. It is wise to work with school officials and plan together how fire safety messages can be best delivered and possibly integrated into language arts, math, and science lessons. Thanks for sharing the helpful links to the NFPA website.
    -Karen Berard-Reed
    Public Education Division, NFPA