Northwest NEWS

July 6, 1998

Local News

Leadership in Public Fire Safety Education: The year 2000 and beyond


Photo by Matthew E. Durham

Engine 34's crew F.F. Rick Ihrie and Lt. Daren Bunger pose with Gold Creek Preschool children during a fire safety class.

by Dave Leggett, P.E.
   Fifty years ago in the fire service, who would have ever imagined a purple dinosaur singing fire and life safety songs to children, or perhaps an MTV program discussing health and wellness issues to a new generation. Welcome to the new millennium and a glimpse of public fire education in the 1990s!
   As we live in these ever changing times societal factors weigh greatly on how we approach community health and wellness issues. In every tragedy that is reported by the media, people ask the same questions "What went wrong? What could have been done to prevent such a castastrophe? Who, or what, was to blame?" We may never know all the answers but these tragedies make one thing clear: we still have a long way to go in public fire education. In the coming years, successful educators will demonstrate greater sophistication in selecting and using outreach methods. New technology is being employed to carry educational messages. Computers have already supplied new options for training and education, and recent technologies, such as virtual reality simulations, will provide new tools for the educator. In addition, education can increasingly occur in settings other than the traditional classroom, such as at home or at work.
   However, at the same time these exciting technical developments are unfurling, there is a discouraging deterioration in the school environment throughout the nation. Many school settings are less conducive to learning because of violence, underfunding, over-regulation, increased class size and other factors. Increased classroom size makes it much harder to maintain a close relationship between school personnel, students and their families.
   With all of these new changes we are moving into an area where the fire department cannot teach fire education alone. If we are to make a major breakthrough, fire prevention needs community ownership fostered by community leadership.