Safety message a hot topic

May 21, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN - Dan Reid is a concerned parent.

After his children slept through a test of their smoke alarm, he was convinced that they needed a fire plan and a lesson in fire safety.

So on Saturday, he took the family to Kids Alive Fest at Children's Village of Washington County.

Watching a short video on how quickly a fire can start, Reid said he didn't want to scare the children, "just educate them."

"I have friends who lost their home to a fire," the Hagerstown resident said. "I don't want my kids to ever experience anything like that. You're never too young to learn how to stay safe."


Reid was among hundreds of people who attended Kids Alive Fest, an annual open house designed to give local residents an opportunity to visit and tour the facility.

Children's Village is a unique safety education program aimed at providing young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to prevent injury and make safe decisions, Executive Director Rochelle Morrell said.

The Hagerstown complex serves as a central location where safety instruction is presented to all second-grade students in public and private schools in the county, Morrell said.

Each year, more than 1,600 students visit the campus, Morrell said. Instruction is provided by professional firefighters, police officers and rescue technicians who volunteer their time.

During two consecutive days, students watch demonstrations and films on a variety of safety topics, and also receive hands-on experience in pedestrian, bicycle and traffic safety.

By holding the open house, Morrell said, "the whole family has an opportunity to come out and see what their children have learned. It's also an opportunity to acquaint the general public with what Children's Village is all about."

Since it opened its doors in 1990, Morrell said Children's Village has been fortunate to have broad-based community support, with 80 percent of its funding coming from private sources.

She said the facility holds three fundraisers during the year, and the open house is one of them.

"Raising funds is a challenge for any organization," she said. "But the community has been very generous to us. The sponsorship we received today from area businesses is an example of that generosity."

Saturday's open house had something for everyone, including a K-9 demonstration, a magic show, a child identification program and an auto extrication demonstration.

Visitors could receive information at a 911 station and participate in a practice fire escape plan.

There also was a radar gun contest, as well as a Junior Firefighters Challenge.

Tours of various buildings on the property also were provided, including a tour of the Burn House, an actual home that was destroyed by a kitchen fire.

"When people come inside, they usually have the same reaction: Wow," said G. Glenn Fuscsick of the Hagerstown Fire Department.

"By touring the house, you can see how quickly a fire can start, and how important it is to have working smoke detectors," he said.

In addition to the instruction provided to county students, Morrell said Children's Village also offers private tours to local day-care centers, Scouting groups and senior citizen and church groups. Additionally, tours are scheduled for members of the public educator classes coming through the National Fire Academy training program in Emmitsburg, Md.

"We really are here for the community," Morrell said.

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