Fire Awareness: Activity Booklet Promotes Safety, Preparedness

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

By Dana Rimington, Standard-Examiner correspondent

LAYTON — The Layton City Fire Department continues to take a proactive stance to educate students at elementary schools about fire danger.

In 2011 the fire department is adding to its program an activity booklet that students can work on with their parents, in hopes of helping prevent a child-related fatality such as the recent mobile-home fire in Clearfield that killed a 5-year-old girl.

The fire safety booklet is still new, having been handed out to elementary students in the last several weeks by Layton Fire Corps during its education presentation.
And the booklet has already had its first revision — as it was originally called a “coloring book.” But elementary students from the upper grades were quick to inform the Layton Fire Corps volunteers that they were too old for a coloring book.

The Layton Fire Department hopes its proactive approach with the activity booklet will pay off in the long run, especially considering Layton has not had a fire fatality for some time and hopes to keep it that way, according to Layton Fire Marshal Dean Hunt.

“As we have a presence in the schools and we talk about these things, we see a trend of fire-setting dropping,” said Hunt. “In the years we’ve not had a program, we’ve seen more incidents with children involved.”

Layton City Fire Department is the first in the state to put into use an activity booklet to go along with their educational program, according to Hunt. They also recently found out from the state fire marshal’s office, which collects data from each fire department, that Davis County has the fewest incidents per capita compared to other counties.

Layton City’s Fire Department believes it is a direct result of their education programs.

“From what we’ve been told, we are the most proactive county in fire safety, which includes code enforcement, public education, and juvenile fire-setter intervention,” said Hunt.

The fire safety education program started five years ago, but recently the group realized they were doing all the talking to students and the information wasn’t being shared at home.

“We can talk about fire safety for a hundred years, but what the students really need to do is sit down and discuss it with their parents and get them involved,” said Randy Benoit, one of the volunteers with Layton Fire Corps who helped head up the creation of the activity booklet.

The booklet includes information from the presentation at the school and a home fire escape planning grid for students to draw a floor plan of their home and find two ways to get out of each room.

Natalie Tholen, Layton City Fire Corps Coordinator, has worked on the booklet with her children. She said when her kids came home from school with the booklets, they drew a picture of their house on the grid and did a walk through the house as a family. Tholen said she asked her children how to get out of each room in their home.

“You can talk about it, but in real-life situations, panic sets in, so it is important to practice so it becomes routine for kids,” said Tholen.

Another innovate way the Layton Fire Department helps the community is to offer home safety surveys.

After two years of planning and training, Layton City is set to be the first fire department in Utah to roll out with a new program in the next couple of months.

The home safety surveys are another proactive way for the fire department to educate home-owners and prevent fires from occurring in the home, by having fully-trained volunteers offer free assessments of potential fire hazards and make recommendations on how to make a home safer.

“Nationwide, most people that die in a fire die in their own homes, a place you feel the safest,” Hunt said. 

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