In March 2006, a "Fire Is..." DVD arrived in mailboxes across the country glued to the pages of Firehouse Magazine. This fire education DVD, brought to you by Dr. Frank Field in cooperation with MetLife, met with great success and much positive feedback. Now it has expanded to the entire New Jersey school system, beginning this week in Cranford, N.J.
"We were able to secure a grant from the State Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness to the NJFMBA Fire Safety Foundation and get 'Fire Is…" to be a state-wide program," says Dr. Field, former meteorologist and science editor. "Cranford debuts 'Fire Is…Black' during Fire Prevention week and will continue with one lesson at a time."
Most fire education in this country is directed at elementary school students, primarily to young children who color pictures and learn to "stop, drop and roll." The middle school students in 5th, 6th, and 7th grades are not taught the truth - that fire is not fun. "Fire Is…" identifies fire as dangerous and shows what can happen when children are burned or killed in a blaze.
Beginning with Fire Is Black, Cranford students will see each module including Fire Is Hot, Fire is Smoke and Gas, Fire Is Fast and Fire Is An Emergency. Each segment is designed so that children are not overwhelmed…but children aren't the only goal here.
"The school district will be sending a survey to all the parents via e-mail and there is a school assignment letter that we ask them to fill out at home, noting whether the parent and child or just the child viewed the video lesson. We want to educate parents at the same time," explains Dr. Field. "We will be following up to get the data on how many viewed it and their remarks to perform a study with the kind of information we need to see how effective it is."
The videos can be view on local public-access stations, totaling 170 for the state, on www.fireis.com and www.njfiresafety.com.
Learning and Growing
After testing the DVD in several sites nationwide last year, Dr. Field structured this year's program around the feedback he received. Grand Island, NE, Fire Department participated and found that it was not only good for the kids to be informed of the seriousness of fires, but it was an eye opener for educators as well.
"I felt that after I showed these videos, teachers were more interested in being involved in fire prevention education, something that all the other curtsy, comic, and 'fun' educational materials, as well as state law, has never done," says Fred Hotz, fire/EMS administration chief.
The DVD was not without criticism. Some teachers conveyed to their principals that they felt uncomfortable with the graphic content, though Grand Island showed the video to students in grades 1-5. Each grade viewed one part of the series based on age appropriateness.
Dr. Field is happy with the results and feels that older children need to be aware of the danger of fire. "At this age, children can begin to understand that, yes, you can burn down an entire building with a single match. In the video, you will see children respond to the question of how many matches does it take to burn down this big building down? The responses range from thousands to 500 to 200."
Lesson learned: fire education is an essential part of fire safety.