By Jacob Mahaffey
When asked what the most important job of the fire department is, many would answer putting out fires.
While this may be partly true, another important aspect of the fire departments job is to teach fire prevention. Every year around the time of Fire Prevention Week, the members of Sugarcreek Fire & Rescue take time to visit area schools – both traditional and parochial – to teach prevention to the younger members of the community.
“We have roughly 500 kids we talk to every year,” said Fire Captain and Fire Safety and Prevention Officer, Michael Beachy. “This is in twelve different area schools.” Though Fire Prevention Week is this week, the fire department began last week presenting programs at Miller Avenue and Ragersville elementaries to start.
“Fire safety and prevention is more than one week a year,” Beachy said. “So, we don’t confine ourselves to one week.”
Last week’s visits featured Kerry Kazaam the Fire Safety Man. The presenter uses magic to teach children about the importance of fire safety. Children are also given activity books and fire helmets that they can take home to share with their parents. “It all works together to teach the kids how important fire safety is,” Beachy stated. “Then they can take that message home and start a conversation with their parents.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, children under 5 and adults over 65 are at the highest risk for injury or death in a fire. However, the risk for a nonfatal fire injury is highest for people ages 20-49. “The kids sharing what they have learned is key to making sure the entire family remains safe in a fire event,” Beachy added.
In addition to the Garaway Elementary schools, the fire department also tries to visit with local parochial schools. “We have been going to them for the last 10 years,” Beachy said. “We try to work with the school boards and superintendents of those schools to get some time to visit.”
While the presentation is a little different for those schools, the message stays the same. “It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent fires in the home,” Beachy advised.
One of the biggest parts of those visits involves showing students equipment that is used in the event of a fire or accident.
These visits are also helping in other ways as well. The fire department has noticed an increase in the interactions they have with area children. “The kids aren’t so hesitant to talk with fire and EMS now,” Beachy explained. “At the end of the day that is always a win in our book. We can look rather scary when we show up in all of our gear, with truck lights flashing and sirens blaring.”
Combating that image is one of the goals of the program. In the event of an emergency, firefighters want children to be at ease with them to make finding them in the event of a fire or treating them at the scene of an accident easier.
The increased visibility in the community with visits to schools and events like Family Farm Field Day does require funding. And while the fire department’s budget allows some money for community education, the majority of these programs are funded by grants from the Fire Pup Program and the Fire Marshall’s Office. In addition, local businesses provide funds to help the department purchase activity books and other fun things for kids. “We can’t thank the businesses enough for their support,” Beachy said in appreciation of the continued support of local businesses in educating youth.
This story originally appeared in the October 10, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.