This drill, courtesy of the Cherryville (NC) Fire Department, lets junior firefighters try their hand at using a thermal imaging camera in search and rescue procedures. This training has been featured at each NVFC National Junior Firefighter Academy at Scott Safety. Try out this drill in your department, and find photos and more information on page 10 of Core Competencies for the Junior Fire Service.
Skills: Fire Behavior, Search and Rescue, Equipment
Facility: Building with multiple dark rooms
- Thermal imaging cameras (one per group)
- Helmets and sets of fire gloves (one per member of group)
- 4 empty drink bottles (2 with hot water, 2 frozen)
- 2 air packs (1 full, 1 empty)
- 2 five-gallon buckets (one filled halfway with ice water, one filled three quarters full with room-temperature water)
- 1 half-filled propone cylinder
- 1¾ hose line (charge flowing water)
- 1 extinguisher prop with full propane tank and lighting stick
Lesson: Program advisors should demonstrate how the cameras show fire extinguishment, water stream success, and what a RIT, RIC, or FAST team should look for to find a downed firefighter.
- Advisors should create a blacked-out room(s) in the fire department or other training building, taping up the windows or using other methods to block all light. Add obstacles by moving around furniture, placing dummies, or building a maze. Place hot and cold objects around the rooms.
- Junior firefighters will be placed in small groups with a check list of all the hot and cold items they are to locate in the room or building. They should also look at the buckets, propane tank, and hose lines to show the fluid levels and whether the hose line is flowing water or not.
- Junior firefighters can compete to see who can find the most items on the checklist in the shortest amount of time.
People are at increased fire risk in the winter season as they cook holiday meals, display decorations, and may use unsafe heat sources. Your junior firefighter program can help prevent winter home fires in your community by sharing the information below. Click here for more resources you can use in your outreach, such as social media messages, public service announcements, widgets, web site banners, and publications developed by the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Statistics to share
The threat of winter fires is real. Use these statistics to help citizens understand the severity and prevalence of winter fires.
- 905 people die in winter home fires each year.
- $2 billion in property loss occurs from winter home fires.
- 67 percent of winter fires occur in one- and two-family homes.
- Cooking is the leading cause of all winter home fires.
- 5 to 8 p.m. is the most common time for winter home fires.
- Source: National Fire Incident Reporting System 2009-2011
Winter safety tips
Look for everyday opportunities to encourage safety and help citizens prevent winter fires. Follow the links for specific safety tips that are easy to share on social media or during outreach events.
• Encourage safe holiday decoration displays, including candles.
• Suggest ways to safely cook indoors.
• Remind residents about safe heating with space heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces.
• Prepare to make the next winter storm safe for everyone.
• Inform residents about the dangers of carbon monoxide.
• Make homes safe from electrical fires.
Source: U.S. Fire Administration
This simple-to-set-up drill from the Cherryville (NC) Fire Department provides training on search and rescue and can be done with minimal props and space. Find this drill and more training ideas in Core Competencies for the Junior Fire Service.
- Skills: Search and Rescue
- Facility: Outdoor or indoor space at least 50 feet long
- Turnout gear, blackened out face pieces (including hoods), and fire gloves
- 3-5 traffic cones
- Tape measure
- Wipes for cleaning masks
- Lesson: Teach juniors about search patterns and working in low-light situations.
- Place a cone 50 feet directly in front of participants in full turnout gear with a blacked-out face piece on.
- The junior firefighter will start on their hands and knees and crawl for no more than one and a half minutes to try and find the cone in front of them. When they hit the cone, their time is recorded.
- If they do not reach the cone, the mask is taken off to show how far off center they crawled. The test shows that firefighters in a dark building cannot crawl in a straight line. This demonstrates the importance of using search patterns that orient themselves and their teams to the wall or hose line.
Skills: Donning PPE, Donning SCBA, Safety
Facility: Indoor or outdoor space
- Turnout gear
- Face pieces (including hoods)
- Fire gloves
- Air packs
- Wipes for cleaning masks
Review the various pieces of personal protective equipment, proper donning, and how to use an SCBA.
- Junior firefighters should stand beside their turnout gear and air packs with their backs away from their gear.
- A whistle will start the scenario and the junior firefighters can begin donning their personal protective equipment.
- Once the junior firefighter has gotten all the equipment on and is breathing air from the SCBA, they will raise their hands and the advisor/judge will record their time.
- The judge will inspect the equipment with all violations adding 7 seconds to the overall time. Violations include helmet strap not being buckled, neck strap on turnout gear not attached, air pack straps unbuckled or not tightened, hood not over ears, air pack buckle not in the center of the waist, coat not zipped, or suspenders not on. Ask other juniors to help identify violations to reinforce learning.
Did you know that firefighters face increased risk of heart disease and other health concerns? Or that almost 45,000 firefighters are injured each year in the line-of-duty? Your junior firefighter program can play a vital role in your department’s health and wellness initiatives to help to keep your community’s first responders strong and ready for the next call. Junior firefighter programs can also start now to develop important health and safety habits in youth, who are the future of our fire service.
International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, sponsored by the National Volunteer Fire Council and the International Association of Fire Chiefs, is June 16-22. This is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness among your junior firefighters and department personnel of critical health and safety issues and the resources that are available to them.
The event web site at www.safetyandhealthweek.org provides tools and information to help you plan your department’s activities for the week as well as promote the event in your department and throughout your community.
Junior firefighter program advisors can also use the week to teach junior firefighters about the importance of health and safety. Many juniors are preparing for a lifetime of involvement in a physically demanding field. Healthy habits help them now and could also help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, and some cancers when they are older. Focusing on safe, functional training now will make juniors safer when they answer their first call as adults.
This year’s effort will capture the importance of responders looking out for their own and each other’s mental and physical well-being. This year’s tag line, Saving Our Own…An Inside Job, reflects the focus on the theme of behavioral health and the understanding that the most important factor in improving responder health and safety is other responders. Junior firefighters face the challenges that most teens do – bullying, peer pressure, hormonal changes – and may also be exposed to traumatic events at the fire department. Start the conversation now on the importance of behavioral and mental health.
Soldier Township (KS) Fire Department has provided their juniors with a hands-on, non-operational training in attic rescue. Using scrap lumber, they were able to build an obstacle maze for under $200. The obstacle course has an angled platform, attic trusses, attic opening or crawl space opening, 16-inch centered studded wall, 20-inch low clearance opening, 24-inch round opening, and an 18-inch low clearance 4-foot crawl with entanglement. Try out this drill in your department, and find photos and more information on page 12 of Core Competencies for the Junior Fire Service.
Skills: Search and Rescue, Communications
Facility: Indoor or outdoor space
- “Attic” constructed of scrap wood (see photos below)
- Hose line (charged or uncharged)
- Full gear
- Face masks, blacked-out
- Air packs (if juniors choose to use them)
Review the principles of search and rescue and discuss the specifics of attic rescue and maneuvering in small spaces while in full gear.
1. Pass the charged hose line through the obstacle course in the path that you want the junior firefighter to follow.
2. Situate junior, with blacked-out face mask on, at the entrance of the maze. They should follow the hose through the maze. Program advisors and/or other junior firefighters can help guide them through by explaining what steps to take next, which direction to turn, etc.
3. The goal is to reach the end of the obstacle course. Once juniors are familiar with the course, you can ask them to go the opposite direction or carry a “victim” prop to further challenge them.
Get Fit for Firefighting
International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week (held June 17-23) offered an excellent opportunity for you and your department to focus on your health. But to be effective, the focus has to remain all year long – and throughout your lifetime. Junior firefighters can develop healthy habits now that will stay with them throughout their time in the fire and emergency services.
The Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department, Stations 3 and 54, make fitness a big part of their Explorer Post meetings. Every Sunday, they get started before 8am, with juniors getting lined up and standing at attention. After a thorough inspection of uniforms and stance, they run to their turn out gear. Students who have already put on their gear are responsible for helping others put theirs on, so that everyone is in full gear when the timer runs out. They then do push-ups in full gear. Next, they doff the turnout gear and change into athletic clothes to run two miles.
After a break, they start a series of fitness challenges that simulate skills needed for firefighting, such as a hose pull, hitting tires with sledgehammers, and pulling a dummy bag. After these drills, they change back into uniform and complete revolutions on ropes, EMS, ladders, and other first response activities. Their junior firefighter program advisor ends the meeting with a reminder to eat a nutritious lunch to maintain the hard work that they’ve done that morning and fuel their body and mind for the week ahead.
Find fitness challenges and more information for health and wellness on the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program web site at www.healthy-firefighter.org. Junior firefighters can view these resources and articles to help them focus on their health. Remember to follow all state and local regulations when undertaking any new drill or training activities.
Start an Anti-Bullying Campaign
People feel safer knowing that the fire department in their community is looking out for them. The Westhampton Beach (NY) Fire Department junior firefighters wanted their fellow high school students to know that they are there for them, as well.
Building on the national anti-bullying movement and in response to witnessing bullying in their own school, the juniors launched an educational campaign. They created a Facebook page for youth to share their stories, identified themselves as allies so that bullied students know they can talk to them anytime, and scheduled open houses at the fire department to serve as a “safe zone.” Their campaign has gotten national and international attention, with dozens of departments nationwide reaching out to Westhampton Beach to learn more about starting an anti-bullying campaign.
Hold a Tree and Wreath Sale
Junior firefighters at the Proctorsville (VT) Volunteer Fire Department raise funds for their program each holiday season through a wreath and Christmas tree sale. The department purchases 100 trees and about 50 wreaths from a local tree farm, brings them to a lot, and prepares them for sale. Juniors help staff the lot and provide trees and wreaths to the community.
The sale is held on two weekends in December, or until the trees and wreaths are all gone. During one day of the sale, Santa stops by and hot chocolate and homemade donuts are provided to customers.
Consider selling trees, wreaths, and other festive decorations during the holidays in your community. For more information on the Proctorsville Junior Firefighter Program, visit their page on Facebook.
Training Drills from the National Junior Firefighter Academy
The National Volunteer Fire Council's (NVFC) National Junior Firefighter Academy featured four hands-on training drills that can be re-created at your department. Click here for step-by-step intructions on how to complete the Tire Test, Equipment Donning Drill, Thermal Imaging Scavenger Hunt, and Cone Test with your junior firefighter program.
Use a Thermal Imaging Camera
Junior firefighters at the Hyattsville (MD) Volunteer Fire Department participate in a safe yet important hands-on training drill – using a thermal imaging camera.
To start, the program advisor provides an overview of the camera’s specs as well as the proper use and limitations of the unit. Once the youth are familiar with using the camera, they launch into a practical evolution. The instructor turns on the oven and stove top at the firehouse, then places an ice cube on the counter next to the stove. This allows students to see the images in the camera and understand how to interpret what they see. They can also put their hands on the counter for a couple of seconds, then remove them and see the residual heat in the camera that is left on the counter.
The drill can be taken further by placing "victims" (department member volunteers or other junior firefighters) in a dark room and allow the juniors to use the camera to navigate through the room and observe how a victim would appear in that environment. The drill can also be performed with gear and SCBA donned.
Madison (CT) Junior Firefighters Hold Coat Drive
By Alexandra Sanders, New Haven Register
The Madison (CT) Fire Department Junior Hose Co. No. 1 volunteers helped the community in a new way this past holiday season by holding a coat drive to keep people warm this winter.
Coat donations were accepted at the fire department Saturday, November 27, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Dec. 12 and 19 from 9 a.m. to noon. The coats went to local shelters and venues that give coats away, rather than sell them.
The group had never done anything like this before and the idea was sparked by the new president, 17-year-old Greg Dowler.
“With new technology, we don’t get as many calls. Even if a house is on fire, it is out very fast, so this is a way to get people active again,” said Dowler, who works with 12 other volunteer firefighters.
The others he works with range in age from 16 to 20 and have different schedules, so drives like this are difficult to plan.
“Sometimes there were conflicts, but most people are here because they want to help,” said Dowler. He said the drive came together quickly, considering what an overwhelming task it initially seemed to be.
“I like helping people. It’s not a big thing to do, but it impacts people’s lives greatly and helps people who need it,” he said.
Chris Yenco, a fire lieutenant and adviser for the junior firefighters, said that Dowler is following in the footsteps of great past presidents by starting this initiative.
“Hopefully, they (volunteers) all feel a sense of accomplishment that they made a difference,” said Yenco.
Dowler stressed the significant effect the drive could have if every family in town gave one old, but gently used, coat. Before the drive started, he had already collected five coats just through word of mouth.
“It was all just an idea and then it started right up,” said Dowler, who considers himself a driven person.
“He definitely likes to take projects from start to finish,” said his mother, Donna Dowler. “His grandfather owns his own business and is driven in the same manner.”
Dowler, who became president just this month, said that he likes to think positively and looks for a challenge, so there could be more drives in the future.
“A lot of people put their old coats in their attics, but we can use them,” he said.
Sound the Alarm
Members of the Priceville (AL) Volunteer Fire Department Explorer Post helped make their community a safer place during this year’s Fire Prevention Week, held October 3-9. The Explorer Post took advantage of the International Code Council’s Sound the Alarm program to install smoke detectors and reflective address numbers in over 50 homes. The National Volunteer Fire Council is helping to implement the Sound the Alarm program, which is now in its pilot stage.
Sound the Alarm is a community outreach and education program designed to reduce rural community fire hazards and other potential dangers in residential homes. Through Sound the Alarm, teams of fire department members, Fire Corps volunteers, junior firefighters, and building officials can conduct home safety checks, install smoke alarms, and complete follow up evaluations. Priceville Volunteer Fire Department is part of the pilot program currently taking place in three states with high fire death rates. All materials used in the Sound the Alarm pilot program were donated to the department, including smoke alarms, tool boxes, and tool kits.
During Fire Prevention Week, Priceville Explorers went into the community to install smoke alarms and help homeowners create an emergency escape plan. In addition, they placed reflective numbers in easily visible locations in front of homes to make them quickly identifiable to emergency responders. Participating in the Sound the Alarm program provided a way for the junior firefighters to help the community while providing a great service to their department.
The new Sound the Alarm web site allows the pilot program teams, as well as other interested persons and those looking to conduct a similar campaign in their community, to access resources online. Helpful tools include a home safety checklist, smoke alarm data sheet, web site banners, and much more. Online forms are also available for departments who would like to participate to participate in the next phase of the Sound the Alarm program and for local families to request smoke alarm installations for their own home.
Perform a Musical Puppet Show
The Westhampton Beach (NY) Fire Department juniors are using a tried-and-true form of entertainment to teach children about fire safety: a musical puppet show. The junior firefighters have been performing the musical fire safety puppet shows at the local elementary school and at the annual fire department open house for the past five years.
The show is performed entirely by the junior firefighters. Approximately 15 youth take part in the musical puppet show as sound technicians, puppeteers, stage hands, and ushers. The show lasts for about an hour and twenty minutes and is followed by a question and answer period at the end of the show. During the puppet show, the juniors stress fire safety and accident prevention around the home. The show is usually performed in March at the local elementary for over 350 students from kindergarten through third grade.
The Westhampton Beach Fire Department juniors have been featured twice in the Firefighters Association of the State of New York’s The Volunteer Firefighter magazine for the success of their puppet show. The department has two documented incidents where the fire safety training from the puppet show was used. The students in these situations had their families exit the home, dial 9-1-1, and were able to provide accurate information which allowed firefighters to respond faster and limit the amount of property damage.
Get Messages Out with a PSA
The East Norwich (NY) Fire Company junior firefighters are reaching out to other youth in their community by creating a public service announcement (PSA) that will air on television and be viewed at school assemblies across New York’s Long Island. The project, which is being funded through a local television network, will be ready for fall classes in September.
To help Long Island youth navigate their high school years, junior firefighters will visit area schools to show the PSA. It will feature East Norwich Fire Company junior firefighters discussing topics such as bullying, arson, false alarms, substance abuse, and peer pressure, and how these issues affect the local community. At the end of the film, the floor will open for students to ask the visiting junior firefighters questions about these and other topics.
The project was created to help local youth become more aware of safety and health issues, including how to protect themselves and to seek help when needed. The visiting junior firefighters will be able to answer questions as peers, providing answers that teens can relate to. The film will be used for years to come, allowing the East Norwich Fire Company to continue educating as many youth as possible.
Organize a "Smoke Detector Blitz"
The Cherryville (NC) Fire Department and their junior firefighters are raiding neighborhoods – to make sure community residents have working smoke detectors. At least once per year, the department selects a targeted area or group and goes door-to-door to pass out smoke alarms to those who don’t already have alarms and check/replace batteries in the homes that do.
Before the raid, the department selects a neighborhood or specific group for the “smoke detector blitz.” The department leadership lets the targeted group know that the firefighters will be coming by and when to expect them. On a designated Monday night, during the regularly scheduled junior firefighter training, the junior firefighters and department members hit the streets with several pieces of apparatus so that the target population sees them coming and gets excited. Over two dozen firefighters and twelve junior firefighters help distribute the smoke detectors during each event. When funding is available, the “blitz” takes place twice each year.
Add an extra step to this idea by doing a full home inspection with the Fire Corps Home Safety Checklist. The Checklist provides a basic, step-by-step approach to ensure residents in your community are safer and more secure. Use this Checklist to identify hazards in and around the home, as well as hazards that are associated with a variety of household situations, including those where children, older residents, pets, and/or those with disabilities may live.
Hold a Contest During Fire Prevention Month
October is National Fire Prevention Month, a time when the nation focuses on fire safety and prevention. Each October for the last six years, in recognition of the importance of fire prevention education, the East Norwich Fire Department junior firefighters organize a home escape plan poster contest at James Vernon Middle School in East Norwich, NY.
Junior firefighters visit the school and challenge sixth graders to draw a floor plan of their home and show different routes to exit in an emergency. At the bottom of the sheet there is room to explain any precautions that should be taken and additional instructions.
Students return their completed plans to their teacher. The plans are numbered rather than identified by names to ensure fairness. The junior firefighters split into groups to judge the plans and select the top three finalists. Once the top three are determined, the junior firefighters are invited to an assembly at the school where the winners are announced and given prizes in front of the whole student body. The winners each receive a savings bond, a smoke detector, and a fire extinguisher.
Since the contest began six years ago, the submissions have gotten better. The junior firefighter program advisor has noticed that plans are more thorough and that more families have been practicing their exit plans at home.
Support Local Burn Victims
The Vista (CA) Fire Department, with the help of their Explorers, has raised over $10,000 this year for the Burn Institute of San Diego and Imperial Counties. The Burn Institute is a nonprofit health agency dedicated to reducing the number of burn injuries and deaths in San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. The Vista Explorers support the charity by participating in a boot drive, selling T-shirts, and taking part in the Viejas FIRE EXPO/Firefighter Combat Challenge and "Burn Run" parade.
The Burn Institute reaches thousands of children and adults each year with lifesaving fire and burn prevention education, funds vital burn research and treatment, and conducts burn survivor support programs that help children and adults cope with the devastating psychological and physical effects of their injuries. The Vista Explorers have designated the Burn Institute as their charity of choice.
The Explorers helped with the Vista Fire Department's annual boot drive to raise $10,150 dollars for the Burn Institute. During the boot drive, uniformed Explorers and paid personnel held out fire boots for donations at intersections. The Explorers are also selling T-shirts to help raise additional money for the Burn Institute.
The highlight of the Explorers' efforts to support and promote the Burn Institute is the 19th annual Viejas FIRE EXPO/Firefighter Combat Challenge and "Burn Run" on June 20. The FIRE EXPO was created to heighten awareness of modern emergency services and includes firefighting demonstrations, the Burn Run parade of fire trucks and apparatus, a fire and burn prevention education pavilion, and live music. Proceeds from the FIRE EXPO support the Burn Institute. The Vista Explorers help event personnel reset the course during the Combat Challenge, hand out information about their program, and assist wherever needed to produce a successful event.
During the Burn Run, all of the fire departments in San Diego divide into three routes. They stop at several different fire departments along the way to announce how much money they have raised for the Burn Institute. At the end of the Run, all of the trucks and apparatus meet back at the FIRE EXPO where about 100 engines come in with lights and sirens, drawing plenty of attention to the trucks - and to the cause.
Promote Fire Safety at a Community Fair
The Great Neck (NY) Alert Fire Company junior firefighter program's biggest community outreach event of the year is coming up on May 3. Each spring the Great Neck juniors host a booth and fire safety demonstration at the Village of Great Neck Street Fair to educate youth and adults about how to safely escape a house fire.
The Street Fair is one of Long Island's largest arts and crafts events of the year, stretching over a half-mile and featuring more than 200 vendors. The Great Neck juniors take advantage of this popular event to educate kids and their parents about how to stay calm and escape a fire. They do this through a "smoke trailer," a mock house that is partially filled with light smoke. Junior firefighters give participants an overview of escaping a house fire and then let them into the smoke house to practice what they learned.
Inside the house, participants are told to call a fake emergency number with the provided telephone. A junior firefighter answers the call as if it was an actual emergency call and helps the participant make their way to the window while staying low to avoid the smoke. Other juniors wait outside the window with a 3-step ladder, and participants then lower themselves out the window and down the steps to the waiting firefighters. Over 500 people go through the smoke trailer each year, and many come back a second time.
In addition to the smoke house, the Great Neck juniors staff a booth and hand out fire prevention and safety information during the Street Fair. They demonstrate different firefighting and rescue tools to show how first responders do their jobs. Visitors can also take a tour of one of Great Neck's fire trucks.
Organize Food Delivery to Those in Need
Pleasant View (TN) Volunteer Fire Department's (PVVFD) Explorer Program gives back to their community all year through their support of the fire department, but each holiday season they go even further by helping take care of the town's elderly and disadvantaged. For the last two years, Explorers have worked with the department to send fruit basket and food boxes on Christmas Eve to those in need.
Before the event, the group compiles a list of Pleasant View's elderly, families that are struggling to make ends meet, and long-time citizens. Explorers and department leaders gather on December 23 to sort the items that the department has purchased and then prepare the fruit baskets and food boxes. On Christmas Eve, they deliver a basket and a box to each home on the list. Last year, they delivered 46 baskets and food boxes.
For the 2008 event, a local church joined forces with PVVFD to assemble and distribute the food boxes. Partnering with the church allowed the department to educate church members about the work they are doing in the community and inform them about the Explorer program.
PVVFD serves a population of 19,000 covering 200 square miles. Their Explorer Program focuses on teamwork, future fire service involvement, Explorer education, and creating community leaders.
Educate Your Community
Junior firefighters in Cherryville, NC, helped make their community a safer place by assisting with the 2008 Fire Prevention Day held on October 17 at Cherryville High School. This day-long event educates students on fire prevention and safety through live demonstrations and fun, educational displays. The event takes place each year during National Fire Prevention Week.
Cherryville Fire Department's (CFD) junior firefighters assisted with set-up and helped staff booths and displays during Fire Prevention Day, including educating attendees about fire prevention and safety. Other local fire departments contributing to the event included Crouse Volunteer Fire Department, Hugh's Pond Volunteer Fire Department, Agriculture Center Volunteer Fire Department, Tryonota Volunteer Fire Department, and Waco Volunteer Fire Department.
Over 2,300 area students from daycare up to 3rd grade, as well as teachers and parents, participated in the 2008 Fire Prevention Day activities. Held at Cherryville High School's Rudisill Stadium and Starnes Auditorium, the event featured demonstrations such as a fire safety house, a car fire, vehicle extrication, and rappelling from the school's gym. Guests also visited booths with puppet shows, clowns, fire trucks, the bomb squad, Operation Life Saver train rides, a helicopter, Sparky the Fire Dog, and Freddie the Fire Truck
"Our juniors play a critical role in our fire and life safety education efforts for the community," said CFD Chief Jeff Cash. "Fire Prevention Day provided public speaking and leadership opportunities that enhanced the skills of our juniors and will benefit them as future leaders of our community."
Planning a fire prevention and safety day is a worthwhile and rewarding activity for your junior program and your community, but it will require plenty of advanced planning and dedication from both your junior members and adult advisors. Consider hosting a smaller version at your fire station, community center, or school for the first year and then growing the event next year. You can publicize your fire safety event at local schools, libraries, and media outlets. Ask local businesses to display posters and flyers; most will be happy to help and some might even donate items, gift certificates, or financial support to your event.
Operation Santa Parade
Upper Makefield Fire Company (UMFC), with the help of its junior firefighters, has hosted the Operation Santa Parade in Washington Crossing, PA, for the past 12 years. The purpose of the event is to provide fire safety information to families within the township. Firefighters and junior firefighters ride a fire truck through town to distribute up to 1,500 holiday bags to children and adults. These bags are filled with fire prevention brochures and information, as well as pens, pencils, coloring books, and other items geared mostly towards children.
The event always takes place on a Sunday, usually a week or two before Christmas. The parade lasts from about 9 a.m. until evening and covers every navigable road within the township. Community members can visit the department’s web site in advance to track the route and the expected time of arrival in their area. After the parade, the citizens are invited to the fire station to have their pictures taken with Santa. They can also donate a nonperishable food item to the local food pantry in exchange for a raffle ticket for a six-foot long stocking.
Over the years, UMFC has gained a tremendous amount of support for this event. Many families present department members with refreshments along the route, and Girl Scout troops usually provide sandwiches for lunch. An area pizza shop typically offers the department a discounted dinner as well. The junior firefighters provide invaluable assistance throughout the planning and execution stages of the event.
"The juniors are the foundation of energy at UMFC! They are constantly full of energy and ideas - running around, carrying boxes, picking up candy, and willing to give me their all," said Stephanie Alessi, Chairperson of the event.
Operation Santa Parade is advertised on the fire department’s web site, as well as on the marquee in front of the station. Local businesses participate by promoting the event in their stores, placing advertisements in event materials, and donating materials to be included in the bags. The department’s fire prevention budget covers the remaining costs.
Your junior program, with the help of department members, can execute a similar fire prevention event. If you cannot cover every street in your district, you can plan a particular route where people can gather along the predetermined streets. Local businesses may be interested in purchasing advertising in event materials or making donations, and any remaining costs may be covered through your public education budget or fundraising efforts by your junior firefighters.
Host a Campout and Competition
Bergen (NY) Fire Department’s Explorer Post hosted its second Annual Explorer Weekend and Campout in August. The two-day event featured training and competitions and included junior firefighters from Bergen and surrounding communities. The attendees pitched tents outside the department, enjoyed a bonfire, and had free time in the evening to watch a movie and socialize.
This year’s training exercises covered subjects including mask confidence, bus safety, ropes and knots, thermal imaging, and mercy flight. To keep competitions fun and fair, the rules were kept secret until the night before. Junior firefighter programs containing more than 14 members were divided into two teams and small programs were allowed to "borrow" members from other departments to even out the teams.
Participating junior firefighter programs paid a fee of $25 per member in order to help cover the cost of the t-shirts, activities, and meals. Additionally, programs were asked to contribute two cases of water so that the junior firefighters remained hydrated throughout the weekend.
A list of rules helped to maintain order and ensure the safety of the junior firefighters. At least one advisor was required to be with their junior firefighters at all times. If a program had both female and male junior firefighters, then they were also required to have female and male advisors. Quiet hours were established and no one was allowed to leave the designated area at will. Alcohol and drugs were not permitted.
Hosting a campout and competition requires advanced planning. Ideally, you want to find a location that will allow you to hold your activities on-site or is located close to an area where the events can take place. If camping outside of your department is not feasible, consider finding a nearby campground, as the Lake Carmel (NY) Fire Department did for their campout.
If you already have relationships with other nearby junior programs, invite them to participate and help support the event. You can also visit the National Junior Firefighter Program web site, http://cosmo.lyris.net/t/1671770/10629690/33016/0/, to find registered programs in your area. Junior programs that have a good time at the event will likely become repeat attendees. Captain Madsen, a former organizer of Lake Carmel Fire Department’s campout, said of this year’s event, "I saw new advisors but they were familiar faces. They were past explorers that have come to our campout for years and are now bringing kids. That makes it worth all of the hard work that gets put into it."
Entry fees and contributions from participating programs along with donations from local businesses can cover most, if not all, of the expenses of hosting the event. Businesses and other departments are usually willing to help. As Captain Madsen noted, "Sometimes businesses send money or they would tell us to pick up food the day of the event. Fire departments will send rigs and members, and they will spend the whole day out there training, cooking, or even judging the competitions."
Host a Children's Safety Event
In 2006, the junior firefighter programs in Nassau County, NY, banded together to form the Nassau County Junior Firefighters Association (NCJFA). Since its inception, the group has made it their mission to "promote camaraderie and community service, as well as train with other departments so everyone may gain the ultimate training experience."
One of their recent service projects involved increasing the awareness of children’s safety in their county.
According to the NCJFA, there is a great need to teach safety information to children and parents in their community since almost half of the 50,000 children who are the victims of non-family abductions each year are from New York. The NCJFA’s approach to decrease these tragic numbers resulted in the creation of Countywide Safe Kids Day.
The inaugural event was held in April at a local restaurant and featured educational activities that taught children and parents about a variety of safety issues, including bicycle, car seat, and pool safety. The event also offered the opportunity to obtain ID cards with the child’s fingerprints. Nearly 100 junior firefighters helped make this project possible by handing out over 3,000 pieces of safety-related information to the attendees.
Countywide Safe Kids Day was completely free to families thanks to donations, raffles, and the sale of advertisements. A complementary booklet was distributed at the event and contained advertisements for over 110 sponsors. The event, which took 13 months to plan, attracted over 600 people and provided fingerprinting services for 348 children.
Jerry Presta, Event Chairman, called the event a great success and praised the junior firefighters’ efforts saying. "They were all eager to make sure every family that visited that day left with all the information they could give to them," he said.
A children’s safety event is a rewarding activity for your junior program; however, it will require plenty of advanced planning and dedication from both your junior members and adult advisors. If an event of this magnitude seems too overwhelming, consider hosting a small-scale version at your fire station, community center, or school. The event can be publicized at your local schools, daycare facilities, and media outlets. You may also find that local businesses are more than willing to not only display posters and flyers, but also to donate items, gift certificates, or financial support to your event.
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