AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach Some states are working to ban the sale of novelty lighters.
In the many travels that I have made, delivering programs to numbers small and large, I find that any message is enhanced with the addition of a really good prop.
I admit that I am fortunate enough to work with a group of firefighters that are incredibly talented, and they make some amazing props to help educate our community. Given our neighboring departments duplicate them to use for their events, your own organization can, too. We are all in this together.
One of the props that has been with me the longest is a simple smoke alarm, mounted to a piece of wood. This piece forms the top of a display, plexiglass forms the three walls, and a matching piece of wood forms the bottom, where an ashtray is mounted.
With my audience watching, I light a cigarette and place it in the ashtray. The smoke alarm goes off in seconds, letting the audience know that no matter how lightly they think they sleep, a smoke alarm is a hands-down winner is detecting and responding to smoke.
Note: before I light the cigarette, I let the crowd know so as not to offend anyone with the smell and also tell them it will only be lit for about 15 seconds.
Common items I also like a simple prop that consists of common household items, mounted to a base, that have been burned and damaged in fires that we responded to. The prop is not large, and usually has three or four items attached to it. The usual items include melted smoke alarms, a melted plastic clothes hanger, a child's toy, a plastic drinking glass, or some other common items that provide powerful visuals of the strength of fire.
We also have a simple display that features common candy, mounted next to prescription and over-the-counter medicines. The purpose for this display is to show parents (and grandparents who watch small children) how easy it is for children to mistake pills they shouldn't take for candy.
Another easy but effective idea is to create a display case of novelty lighters, purchased at mini-marts and dollar stores in the area. It serves as a graphic display for adults who may have no idea that innocent-looking toys can actually be lighters that children have used to accidentally destroy homes and kill others in the house.
All of the props I've outlined in this article can easily be taken to a group presentation or put on display at an open house event. Now that you have learned some of my favorite ways to deliver a powerful fire prevention message, go find some of the talented firefighters on your fire department, get started and be creative!
About the author
Tom Kiurski has been in the fire service since 1981. He is the Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue. He has served as a firefighter/paramedic, engineer and lieutenant prior to his appointment as the training coordinator. He has earned an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., a Bachelors Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Tom teaches fire service-related courses at local colleges and fire academies. He has presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis seven times, as well as numerous state and local conferences. He has written more than 300 articles on fire safety education and training that have appeared in various fire service publications. Contact Tom at Tom.Kiurski@firerescue1.com.
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