Fire station tours are an excellent opportunity for public relations and public fire education for the fire department. A Firefighter is involved in the business of saving lives, whether it entails response to a fire after it has occurred or, more importantly, before it occurs. The truth is that we’re far more likely to save kids’ lives through fire safety education and the knowledge of stopping or taking proper action during a fire incident than by the actual rescue. A fire station tour is a great opportunity to teach valuable life safety skills to visitors and for children and adults to learn that firefighters do so much more than fight fires.
Make Sure You have Enough Chaperones
When you bring children into the fire department, keep in mind that they are not maintained to be child-friendly. The kids will need close supervision, so that they don’t wander off on their own to inspect a dangerous area. Ensure children understand that in the case of an emergency, firefighters will have to leave the station even if a tour is in progress.
Helpful Tips for Children Learned at a Visit to the Fire Station:
Children should be able to dial 911 and say their address and full names as soon as they can speak. Kids quickly pick up technological skills, so pushing phone buttons to them is second nature! Make them understand that they only ever call that number if somebody is in danger, including if they see a fire.
Practice Fire Drills
Have you had a fire drill in your own home? Do your kids know what to do in case there is a fire in the house? Ask the kids to push the test button on the smoke detectors, so that they can learn what they sound like and what measures to take if they ever hear that sound. After your kids realize what the alarm noise is, they need to practice exiting the house as quickly as possible.
Arrange a Meeting Place
It’s important to have a pictorial presentation of your family’s fire escape plan. Indicate two ways to escape from all rooms and determine your chosen meeting place if everyone needs to evacuate. It can be any place that is far enough from the house. Remember to schedule dates for the family fire drills throughout the year so that everyone knows what to do.
One of the most helpful recommendations for children is to NEVER hide if there is a fire. Instead, they should get out right away if there is smoke or fire. Children should not go behind furniture, in the closet, under the bed, etc. They must understand that they should never go back into the house if there’s a fire, even for a favorite toy or pet.
Exposure to Firefighters in Fire Suits
In a fire, it’s important for the kids to run towards the firefighter, and not run away from them and hide. This can be learned through regular tours to the fire station. Children should know how firefighters look in their full gear. The firefighter’s “space alien” look can be scary and intimidating for kids. The more exposure children have to firemen and what they look like, the less likely they will be frightened should they ever have to see one in your home during a fire rescue.
Practice Stop, Drop & Roll
Little kids love to practice action steps and memorize patterns, so this is a simple one to make into a fun game for their safety. Teach kids that if their clothes catch fire, they should: Stop! Drop to the ground! Cover their faces and Roll until the fire is out. This technique should be practiced often so that it will become an automatic response in an emergency situation.
Please be aware of the following for fire station tours:
- Recommended group size is thirty individuals.
- Children must be at least five years old.
- A release of liability form must be completed for each visitor.
- All fire stations are on call status, even during the station tour. Therefore, if an emergency is received at the station, the tour may be canceled early to respond to the emergency call.
- Visits are a maximum of one hour.
- Transportation must remain available on site as tours may be canceled or interrupted on short notice because of emergency call outs.
- These tours are meant to be educational in nature. Consequently, facilities to accommodate food, drinks or parties are not offered.
- Visitors will not be allowed to mount or handle equipment any fire apparatus unless supervised and approved by fire personnel.
If you there is a fire pole at the station, it may be fun to let the children see one of the firefighters slide down it. Under no circumstances should you let the kids do the same. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why.
Formal tours should be scheduled in advance and coordinated through the appropriate office (Training, administrative, planning, etc.) whenever possible, and groups should be limited to a manageable size if a tour must be terminated due to an emergency response. During times of elevated security threat levels, or immediately following an incident where hose and tools need to be tested, inventoried, and cleaned, firehouse tours should be rescheduled to a later time and date.
Fire departments often hold open houses as part of their community education programs. If a private tour cannot be planned, ask when the next open house event is scheduled. These are often more fun than privately arrange visits as they last longer and there are more firefighters on hand to answer questions. The community events mean that there is more firefighting equipment available for the public to look at. The scheduled open houses are also more reliable since arrangements have already been made for other fire departments in the area to act in response to distress calls and the trip is less likely to be canceled.