As a symbolic gesture to demonstrate the City of Hazelwood’s commitment to ensuring the safety and security of its residents, Mayor Matthew Robinson presented Fire Chief Dave Radel with a proclamation declaring the week of Oct. 5-11 as Fire Prevention Week in Hazelwood. This city document kicks off the Hazelwood Fire Department’s month-long efforts during Fire Prevention Month in October to educate more than 1,200 local children about fire safety in all the public elementary schools, pre-schools and daycare centers within its jurisdiction.
Sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Fire Prevention Month has roots that date back to The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people and left over 100,000 homeless. While this public safety awareness campaign lasts the entire month, many fire departments designate the second week of October (Oct. 5-11) as Fire Prevention Week and conduct various demonstrations and expos in hundreds of cities across the country.
The theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month.” According to Hazelwood Fire Chief Dave Radel, “Smoke alarms can and do save lives when there’s a fire, but they need to be working,” said Hazelwood Fire Chief Dave Radel. “A couple of years ago, our fire department went door-to-door throughout the city to make sure every household had at least one working smoke detector. We’re still very committed to the cause of saving lives and have smoke detectors on hand at each of our Fire Stations, along with fresh batteries, for any residents who need them. We’ll even come out and install a smoke alarm for you if you give us a call at (314) 731-3424.”
According to NFPA statistics:
•Having a working smoke alarm in the home cuts the risk of dying in a fire by half
•On average each year, three out of five home fire deaths result in fires where their are either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms
•In one-quarter (23%) of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound.
“Nearly 3,000 people continue to die in fires every year, with most of those deaths occurring in homes,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “The vast majority of home fire deaths are preventable, and working smoke alarms play a big role in helping reduce those numbers.”
Local Firefighters Launch Essay Contest
Hazelwood firefighter/paramedics are adding a new element to their on-going fire safety education program for Fire Prevention Month. They are launching an essay contest with 5th grade teachers and their students at both McNair Elementary School and Russell Elementary School.
Hazelwood firefighter/paramedic Amanda Boyer is credited as the one who came up with the idea of doing an essay contest that would result in the winners getting a ride to school on a City fire truck. “When children know they have to write something about a classroom presentation, they tend to pay more attention to what’s being said and internalize what they learn by putting it in writing,” Boyer said.
Boyer worked with BC Randy Getz, HFD’s public information officer, Gerard Hegedorn, a firefighters’ union representative, and Jim Cacciabando, a firefighter/paramedic, on finalizing the details and logistics for implementing this writing project.
They met with classroom teachers and instructional specialists who educate 5th graders at both public elementary schools. The essay contest is set up to run in conjunction with their writing class curriculum which emphasizes non-fiction writing this year. It will be a work project that teachers normally assign to their students.
The students will be asked to write a one- or two-page essay on what they learn from the classroom presentations given by the Hazelwood firefighter/paramedics on the following dates: October 8 – McNair Elementary School and October 17 – Russell Elementary School. They will have two weeks to complete their essay and turn it in. Criteria for grading will be determined by the teachers and instructional specialists in accordance with their lesson plans.
The teachers will narrow down the selection to the top five finalists in each school. HFD officials will then meet with them and review the students’ essays. Two winners from each school are going to be awarded the privilege of riding to school in a City fire truck. These ride-to-school trips will be scheduled sometime during the second or third week in November. The excitement will be enhanced by having their classmates stand in front of the school and greet them as they arrive in the fire trucks.
“This essay contest brings together fire safety education and fire prevention awareness with an existing classroom curriculum taught at each of the public elementary schools in our jurisdiction,” Getz said.
“It allows us to get more mileage out of our fire safety education program than just handing out informational literature. Kids get more out of it because they have to pay attention and remember what is said during the classroom presentations. And, offering a ride to school in a fire truck gives them motivation to do a good job on their essays,” Getz added.