Lessons from a Photo Shoot: Fire Safety Tips Your Kids May Not Remember From School

Chaucer With Fire Marshal BrianThanks to Fire Marshal Brian, Chaucer and his team secured some great photos a while back for the prolific terrier’s forthcoming book about careers (Surgeon, Sculptor, Sailor on the Sea… What in the World Do I Want to Be?) We caught up with Fire Marshal Brian recently, and the discussion turned to fire safety lessons for young kids.

It turns out that firefighters face unique challenges when entering a burning home in which there are young children. Why? Kids often conceal themselves, behind doors, in closets, under furniture–forcing their rescuers to spend precious moments in a dangerous game of hide and seek.

First, the noise terrifies them. Axes chopping through doors, glass shattering, strange voices shouting, flames roaring. Stop, drop, and roll–the fire safety mantra even most kindergartners can recite–doesn’t help in such a situation.

Chaucer Visits the Buffalo NY Fire StationAnd then, when the firefighter does come into view, it is not the kind and comforting face children know from storybooks or the neighborhood station. What they see is an inhuman and unintelligible creature emerging from the smoke or darkness, breathing heavily and trying to grab them. Little wonder that crawling as far under the bed with one’s stuffed animals, even fighting against the rescuer, is a natural reaction.

Fire Marshal Brian says his fire safety lessons always include familiarizing kids with the firefighter’s mask and the scary sounds they would hear in such a situation. And knowing that your rescuer may be communicating just with hand signals–come, wait –is important, too, he says.

All of which gives Chaucer an idea for a classroom project. Play acting is an effective way to cement ideas in kids’ minds. We’ll be getting out the paper mache supplies and digging into that bag of paper towel tubes he’s been saving to make our own firefighter masks. We’ll post the results and instructions so you, too, can have a roomful of masked kids breathing like monsters and using non-verbal communication to imitate firefighters in action.

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