Through the thick smoke and flames, they may look like a scary creature and sound like Darth Vader, but have no fear! It is a friendly firefighter coming your way and they want to help you.
It is crucial for their safety that children are taught not to be fearful of firefighters. Although they may look frightening when they are donned in their gear, it is vital to reiterate to children that firefighters are good and they can trust them. It is recommended to have a discussion with your children about the difference between “bad strangers” and “good strangers”. Explain to them that like police officers, firefighters are “good strangers”. Clarify that even though they do not know them personally, they have your permission to seek out a uniformed firefighter in the event of an emergency.
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in 2015, there were over 1.3 million fires reported in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security provides shocking statistics, explaining that each year more than 2,500 fatalities occur as a result of home fires, and over 12,600 people sustain injuries from those fires. This number has a great potential to be dramatically decreased if children are informed about the importance of evacuation in the event of a fire and finding a firefighter immediately.
When working to put out a fire, firefighters are dressed in approximately 70 pounds of gear. This includes a reflective fire resistant suit known as “bunker gear”. Bunker gear is thick, heavy clothing that makes the firefighter look much bigger than they actually are. They are also wearing heavyweight gloves, big boots, and a helmet that is equipped with a bright light on top. Additionally, they have a large metal oxygen tank on their back that connects to a mask that covers their entire face and distorts their voice.
THE DANGER OF FIRE
It is easy for a child to take one look at a fully dressed firefighter and think “alien” or “monster”. A terrified child seeing this figure walking towards them could cause them to run in the opposite direction or hide. This increases the danger level for not only the child, but the firefighter as well. Fire grows extremely quickly, and in just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. Research shows that in the time span of approximately five minutes, an entire residence can become engulfed in flames.
SEARCHING FOR YOU
When entering a structure that has an active fire, firefighters conduct a preliminary search to ensure all occupants have exited. If they receive reports that there are still individuals inside, firefighters will quickly enter the structure and aggressively make their way through the hallways and rooms instructing any persons still inside to yell out to the firefighters so they can successfully locate them. It is very challenging for firefighters to make their way through a smoke-filled house with little to no visibility to find a small child who could be hiding anywhere.
With limited time to conduct a search of the premises for any occupants inside the home, in addition to navigating an unfamiliar layout of a residence, firefighters have an extremely difficult task at hand. Searching for small children with creative hiding places makes the search even more complicated.
Acquainting children with the look of a firefighter is exceptionally valuable in the event they are in a fire or emergency. A child in the middle of a crisis will already be very alarmed with heightened emotions. The sight of a firefighter should put the child at ease, and they should learn to associate a firefighter with “help”, “safety”, and “protection”.
Some tips to help your child become comfortable with a Firefighter
- Take your children to visit your local fire department to meet a real life firefighter. Firefighters enjoy having visitors to the fire department and welcome an opportunity to educate young children.
- Ask a firefighter to show your child their bunker gear. This allows your child to see for themselves what the firefighter looks like when they are wearing their gear. They will be able to make the connection that it is the same person in the gear as who they just met in regular clothes.
- Let your child touch the gear to understand what it feels like. Your child will have a better understanding of what firefighters have to wear to protect themselves from a fire.
- Let your child try the gear on! It might be a little big, but firefighters are happy to let them play dress-up.
- Take your child’s picture with the firefighters. You can show the pictures to them as a reminder that the firefighters they met were friendly, nice people and there is no reason to be scared of them.
Your child will leave the fire station with a sense of security and a better understanding of firefighting and fire safety. Your “Junior Firefighter” will have some new friends, and you can feel assured that they will know what to do in an emergency situation.
Photo credits: Sasha Staton