aihec photo 08.13.13

Sherwin Becenti, Gail Minger and Calvert Wichapa, two of the students from the Navajo and Tohono O’odham reservations that will be taking part in the Campus Fire Safety Community Service Project.

Trying to reach students with fire safety information is hard, not many people will debate that point, so we need to be creative in how we are trying to get them to pay attention to the information that we know can save their lives.  Many schools try different tactics, such as side-by-side burns, hands on fire extinguisher training, smoke rooms, videos, and much more.  All of these can be effective methods, but there is no one magic solution that works, it takes a combination of different methods.

A few years ago, the Minger Foundation was awarded a DHS Fire Prevention and Safety Grant to develop Campus Fire Safety Community Service Projects. These are programs where the students work alongside fire fighters and go into high-risk homes in the community doing fire safety education, testing and installing smoke alarms. The idea behind this was that by doing fire safety, the students would learn about fire safety through helping others.  They would not only be learning a valuable life skill, but they would be giving back to the community and the fire department would get access to a new resource to help them in their outreach efforts.

These programs were done successfully in North Carolina and Kentucky, and the present grant will expand it to six locations in Arizona, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico and West Virginia.  Each of the sites were asked to take part because they were located in areas that had demographics that are statistically at a higher risk from fire, which can be a combination of low income, elderly, minorities, rural households and off-campus households.  Two of the sites will be on the Navajo and Tohono O’odham Indian Reservations, which will be a new experience for us, working with a whole new culture and demographic when it comes to fire safety.

The schools and communities that we will be working with include:

  • Arizona – Tohono O’odham Community College/Tohono O’odham Fire Department
  • Kentucky – Pikeville University/Pike County and Mountain Outreach Program/University of the Cumberlands
  • Mississippi – University of Mississippi/Lafayette County and the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office
  • New Mexico – Navajo Technical University/Crownpoint Fire Department
  • West Virginia – West Virginia University/Morgantown Fire Department

In addition to the six sites, we are also going to be working with the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s office on putting together a half-day train-the-trainer program to show other schools and communities how they can do these type of projects.  This is tentatively scheduled for June 2014 and we are working on plans to web cast it as well throughout the state.

One of the deliverables on this grant will be an online “how-to” manual that communities can use if they want to develop projects to engage their students.  Knowing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, this manual will be designed in such a way that communities and schools can pick and choose what strategies would work best for them.

We will also be using iPads as a key part of this project as well. We are going to be gathering a lot of information as we do the visits on the iPads and will also be using them to show fire safety videos when we are in the homes.

The goal of this project is to create another way to actively engage the students in fire safety. By providing the opportunities for them to do fire safety in the community, and give back, they are also going to be learning valuable lessons that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.