In my profile, it’s mentioned that I am head of our fire prevention team in my department. I joined my department as a firefighter in April, 1991 (I’d been active in the Auxiliary for several years prior). It didn’t take me long to get involved with the fire prevention in our department, at the urging of the Chief at the time.
With another member of our department, Rich, I started a newsletter to distribute around the village for the community to take and read. We had a lot of safety information in it and events that were coming up. There even was a place for the Chief to talk about fire safety. We had a lot of fun putting the paper together. At Halloween, we started a story called the Phantom Fireman. Let’s just put it this way, we wrote it so well, we freaked ourselves out. I still to this day don’t like going into the firehouse by myself at night.
Every year in October, we ran fire drills at all the local schools in our district (and still do). It was great; the Kindergartners came out and we would do the safety talk and the kids loved it. I did that for many years and ended up on a team with Rich and my (now) ex-husband. We ended up joining the county fire prevention unit and went to meetings to get ideas on how to get the points across to kids and what we could do differently at the schools. There were definitely things that other departments could do at their schools that we couldn’t. It got a little discouraging. But we did our best at the schools.
After a few years I couldn’t be so active in the Fire Prevention team and turned my position over to another member and still helped when I could. Unfortunately it did not hold up to the standards that the team had originally set. About 5 years ago, I was approached by the Chief at the time and asked if I would take the team back. I agreed - with one condition: that one of the original members participated also. Rich agreed (with some ribbing and gentle nudging), and Rich and I have run the Fire Prevention program ever since.
One focus of our presentation to the school kids about fire safety involves what to do when they are in a car and they hear a siren. We make a point in recent years about pulling over and stopping when the parents see the red lights and hear a siren. We have always hoped that the little ones would remember our talks…but we really never got any feedback, other than the kids saying to me, “Hi! I remember when you came and talked to my class!” when I picked my daughters up from school.
One morning when I took my youngest to preschool, we were waiting to go in and a mother told me that her son went home (after we had been there doing a fire prevention presentation at the preschool) and talked excitedly about doing fire drills at home; and that when the smoke detector goes off they are to get out and stay out; and especially how if they couldn’t get out, that the firemen would come get them. He told her how we explained to him that they shouldn’t hide in or under anything and, when the firemen come in to get them, they shouldn’t run away and that we may look scary but that we aren’t and they should go to us. It was so cool to hear that.
On another day a few months later, the preschool teacher told me that one of her 4 year old students helped his grandmother. The grandmother was visiting (I believe from Germany) and she was helping her family out by bringing the little boy to preschool. While on their way the grandmother had a minor accident, and she slid off the road. The grandmother was upset and didn’t know what to do or who to call. The little boy told his grandmother, “Nana, you need to call 911.” With that he took her cell phone and called 911 and they were helped. THAT was the biggest thrill in all of my years (17) in the fire service. I was just so proud of that little boy and of my team; it reassured me that we were able to make a difference and the kids heard what we were trying to teach them.
So, now I am trying to push the schools to let us come in and teach all the grades in June when they don’t have a lot to do. It hasn’t happened yet and I am hoping if I push hard enough eventually they will let us. We can only hope.
If I can dig out from the archives the phantom fireman story I’ll post it here. It is a great story. Totally made up…but it seemed so real it creeped me out.