Program Teaches Fire Prevention and Safety to City Children
"Fire is like a dragon. It flies around, burning through walls, ceilings, floors – and it can burn you,” explains Inspector Granger Chapman of the Baltimore City Fire Department. He and his partner, Inspector Chip Jones, along with Paramedic Kevin Williams and Karen Hardingham, R.N., B.S.N., of the Baltimore SAFE KIDS Coalition, deliver this message and words of safety to children when traveling to city elementary schools teaching “Inspector Detector.”
The program stresses fire prevention and safety. It was developed as part of a collaborative effort between Baltimore SAFE KIDS Coalition at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and the Baltimore City Fire Department.
When children gather for the program, a group of second and third graders hears, “You will become inspector detectors today.” Then Inspectors Jones and Chapman use their voices, hand gestures, pantomine, and plenty of audience participation to emphasize that all families need a fire evacuation plan with two ways out, a meeting place to gather after escaping from a fire and a working smoke detector. The children also review “stop, drop and roll” in case their clothes catch fire and are reminded that they need to practice fire drills at home.
"This program was developed in response to an alarming number of children in Baltimore who have died or were injured in fires. The data suggest that there needs to be a consistent means of providing fire prevention education to children,” says Karen Hardingham.
From 1995 to 2000, 55 children were killed in fires in Baltimore City; an additional 132 children were injured from fire during that time. In the United States, someone dies in a fire every two and a half hours, and firefighters respond to house fires every 90 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association
"We offer the “Inspector Detector” program to second and third graders. The program is conducted from October through April in half of the city’s 120 elementary schools. The following year, the other half of the elementary schools are targeted. This allows us to provide fire education to all Baltimore city school students by the time they reach the third grade,” adds Ms. Hardingham, who is program coordinator of the Baltimore SAFE KIDS Coalition at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children. SAFE KIDS is an organization dedicated exclusively to preventing unintentional injury in children.
During “Inspector Detector,” Paramedic Williams plays a 9-1-1 tape from a real emergency. Immediately following that, firefighters from the area respond to the school in a fire truck so the children can see the very men and women who work in their neighborhood. This also teaches children not to run away or be scared of the firefighters who can look a bit frightening when wearing all the gear. The children can then see the heavy gear and protective clothing up-close. The students also get to go outside and hop on the fire truck, making it a memorable experience.
At the very end of “Inspector Detector,” children are asked to take home a form on fire safety to complete with an adult. If they bring it back to school, they will get a bag of goodies with a fire hat, stickers and an activity book. Also, if the form indicates that a family needs a smoke detector, the fire department will install one for free.
In the very beginning of the presentation, the children promise that they will share the information they have learned with everyone they love. The hope is that “Inspector Detector” will help save lives and keep children away from the dragon.
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