Fire safety workshop teaches the teachers to help protect children.

Elmira is the sole Canadian stop this year for a fire-safety workshop targeted at those who work with children.

The Play Safe! Be Safe! educational session is slated for May 17 at the WMC. It’s organized by the Rochester, NY-based Community Health Strategies, offered here in conjunction with the Woolwich Fire Department.

“We’ve been in every state in the U.S., every province in Canada. We’ve done over 200 workshops,” said Molly Clifford, the group’s executive director. “We’ve distributed probably 220,000 educational kits, so it’s a great commitment to fire safety.”

The workshop is specifically geared towards daycare providers, teachers, safety educators and other community agencies. The goal is to give attendees a thorough understanding of how young children understand and react to fire using statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. It will be led by Dr. Robert Cole, a clinical associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Nursing and one of the leading experts on child fire safety in the U.S.

The organization’s website lists alarming statistics. Children’ play leads to 49,300 reported fires each year, with 7,700 being at home. Some 12.5 per cent of these residential fires injures or kills someone. Furthermore, more than 50 per cent of children experiment with matches or lighters by the time they reach age 13. This is why, Clifford says, it is crucial to teach educators about fire safety.

“The workshops themselves are for the educators, because we know the educators are going to go work with the young children,” Clifford explained. “In order for us to get the message out to as many people as possible, the idea here is that we work with the adults that work with them.”

Workshops are divided into six segments. They include the frequency of children’s fire play and fire setting, the young child’s understanding of fire, teaching children fire safety skills, fire prevention, involving families in fire safety and evaluation of the program.

“The workshop is going to be a PowerPoint presentation and they’re going to go through how to teach the program to the kids,” said Nicole Bowman of Cashman & Katz Integrated Communications. “All attendees will get a fire safety kit. There’s a bunch of different games where attendees will learn how to teach to their students and children.”

Since the program has been running since 1992, there have been alterations to the presentations over the years.

“There have been some updates to the educational kit that each participant will get,” said Clifford. “We have actually updated the DVD which goes along with the kit. As well as activities that are available on the website both to teachers and for families.”

There a variety of tips that everyone can learn from the workshop.

“There are four main lessons. One is ‘go to the firefighter,’ where kids learn that firefighters are community helpers, that sometimes they might look different when they have all of their gear on, but they are helpers, and kids need to learn to go to the firefighter when he or she calls you,” said Clifford. “The second is ‘stop, drop and roll.’ So what to do when the fire gets on your clothing. The third is ‘get low and go.’ So what to do when the smoke alarm goes off, you want to stay close to the floor and get yourself to the door as quickly as possible. The fourth is ‘safe or play keep away,’ which is lighters and matches are adult tools. So when you find a lighter or a match, you need to tell a grownup.”

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