In an ever-changing environment, what does it take to keep fire and life safety education moving forward? Dena Schumacher, former education/public information officer of the Champaign Fire Department, Illinois; Marsha Giesler, assistant to the chief of the Downers Grove Fire Department, Illinois; and Maria Bostian, fire and life safety educator of the Kannapolis Fire Department, North Carolina, discussed that topic during the NFPA Conference & Expo in Chicago earlier this month. They were panelists for an education session titled “Designing Fire and Life Safety Education Programs on a Dime.” The session was on the Public Education track and sponsored by the Education Section of NFPA.
Schumacher said that as fire department budgets continue to decrease, educators must embrace power sharing. “We are all on this journey together,” she said. “Without the support of the fire chiefs and dedicated staff to provide services, I would have been eaten up.”
Giesler, who is also the 2012 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year, talked about support as well. “Our firefighters are one of our best resources, and we need to take the time to train them in ‘our world’ of education. They can enjoy this part of the job once they get the tools.” Giesler added that it’s important to give firefighters ownership of their public education work.
Bostian discussed fun and inexpensive ways to get young children and teens interested in fire safety, such as QR code scavenger hunts, library story time programs, and safety camps. She also mentioned free educational programs from NFPA, including the Learn Not to Burn Preschool Program and Remembering When:™ a Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults.
All three panelists stated that even with community partnerships it could take years for public education programs to develop to a satisfactory level. They said educators shouldn't be discouraged.