N.Y. Firefighters Kick Off Fire Safety Campaign Aimed at Children

March 8, 2006

There’s more to fire safety education than stop, drop and roll, firefighters say.

New York City firefighters and a fire safety advocate launched a national fire safety education campaign this week with the release of a DVD that attempts to show children the reality of how dangerous fires can be.

Current fire safety education is lacking, because it doesn’t do enough to really make children understand the risks they face from fire, said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York. Instead, there are catchy slogans like stop, drop and roll, which is good advice for a situation where someone’s clothes catch on fire, but doesn’t do anything to help children understand the importance of fire prevention or how to handle it if their homes are burning, he said.

“I think we’ve got to throw stop, drop and roll out the window and actually inform children what a fire is all about,” Cassidy said.

“Fire Is …,” the brainchild of retired science journalist Frank Field, contains five segments that use media clips from actual fires as well as interviews with burn victims to make children understand that fires are extremely hot, can move quickly, and come with a lot of black smoke that can cut visibility down to nothing. Field’s son and daughter, both in media as well, also took part in the project.

“We have a terrible problem in this country, because we’re not educating children in the right direction,” Field said. “We’re making it into a game.”

The educational campaign was kicked off at the Epiphany School in Manhattan, where a group of fourth- and fifth-graders watched a segment that emphasized how quickly fires can start and how dangerous it is for children to play with matches, lighters, and the like. There were audible cries from the children when they saw burn victims, and many questions for the visiting firefighters.

Ariana Aradio, 10, said she would talk to her parents about making sure matches were kept in a safe place after viewing the video, and while seeing the burn victims made her sad, it was important to see them.

“It was a good thing, because it shows you what can happen if you do play with matches,” the fifth-grader said.

This month, 36,000 copies of the DVD will be distributed to fire departments across the country.

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