When children reach about 14 years of age, most parents feel confident about leaving them home alone for a certain amount of time. For parents of teens with intellectual disabilities, though, that decision is more complicated. Will their child know how to respond if there’s an emergency, get out if the smoke alarm sounds, and call 9-1-1?
Recently Dr. Robert Cole of Community Health Strategies presented a fire safety seminar sponsored by Prevention1st to faculty of the Cooke Center for Learning and Development in New York City. The Cooke Center provides special education services for students ages 5 through 21 with mild-to-moderate cognitive or developmental disabilities and severe language-based learning disabilities. One of the take-aways they have incorporated into their curriculum is the importance of learning and practicing what to do when the smoke alarm goes off.
“Fire safety has always been a topic we’ve covered, but Bob’s seminar really brought out how important it is to have a specific plan if there’s an emergency,” said Virginia Skar, CCC-SLP, Chair of Adaptive Services at Cooke Center. The Center has now integrated exit planning into the journal the school creates as part of parental involvement in educational planning, goal setting, and review of their child’s progress.
Cooke Center also successfully used play safe!be safe!, a fire safety program developed by BIC Corporation for use with young children, as part of the spring semester’s health and safety life skills instruction for their 14- to 18-year-old students.
“Play safe! is a wonderful fit for us,” said Skar, who adapted the program to be age-appropriate for high school by modifying some materials, such as replacing images of children with cutouts of adults. “The materials are interactive and sensory-rich. It provides appropriate learning objectives, and techniques are broken down into manageable steps. These are good for teaching anyone!”
Prevention 1st is partnering with Foodlink, a Rochester-based non-profit that provides food to food pantries across the upstate NY region, to incorporate safety into its cooking and nutrition education programs for families.
With the help of a grant from Wegmans Food Markets, Prevention 1st will develop kitchen and cooking safety curriculum for Foodlink’s “Cooking Matters” program, which empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to shop smarter, make healthy food choices, and cook tasty and affordable meals. Approximately 500 families participate in the program.
Prevention 1st’s “Safe Cooking Matters” will provide tips on preventing fires and burns while cooking. Nearly 60% of home fires in the City of Rochester start in the kitchen.
At the Rochester Rotary Sunshine Campus, children and young adults with disabilities enjoy all the typical summer camp experiences like swimming, archery, nature hikes, and—learning to stay low under smoke? Yes!
This year, campers got interactive hands-on safety sessions with Prevention 1st trainers, practicing essential survival skills using realistic props like doors and windows, thanks to a grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Rochester.
Trainers Ken Schultz, Minerva Padilla, Ric Cortez and Bob Crandall presented scenarios and props for the campers to use in creating skits and practicing skills around such topics as kitchen safety and calling 9-1-1. They acted out choosing what items are safe to put into the microwave, how to recognize home hazards, what to do if the smoke alarm goes off including checking the door for heat, keeping low under smoke, escaping through a window, and what to remember to tell the 9-1-1 operator.
Even as New York State legislation moves forward to require long-life batteries in all smoke alarms sold statewide, Prevention 1st vice-president Bob Crandall has drawn on his 30 years of experience in the Rochester Fire Department to point out the continued need for human involvement in fire prevention and safety.
“Technology doesn’t let us humans totally off the hook,” he wrote in a guest column for Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle. “There are things we still need to do to keep our families safe.” He described the need to test and maintain even hard-wired alarms, and plan and practice your escape route.
Sixth-graders at Rochester City School #17 learned about home safety and practiced their presentation and leadership skills through a recent series of Peer to Peer Home Safety Trainings through a grant to Prevention 1st from the John Wegman Fund of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.
In these workshops, students typically learn about such safety topics as fire and burns, smoke alarms and exit plans, household hazards, kitchen safety, and poison prevention, which they then teach to their schoolmates. For this training, the school’s principal asked for a presentation on one particular aspect of poison prevention–exposure to lead. Two students whose lives had been affected by lead poisoning took on the topic, telling their own stories and teaching schoolmates how to help keep themselves, younger siblings and their families safer. Learn more about lead poisoning prevention in this article by our training partner Community Health Strategies.
John Wegman Fund board members Betty Wells and Susan Touhsaent attended the students’ presentations to second- and third-graders at School #17. Ms. Wells told Prevention 1st:
“I was impressed by both the individuals staffing the program and the young people attending. The adults gave lots of individualized attention but allowed the students to follow their own plans. Each adult offered a different skill set which helped all students. [The youth] showed an ability to work as teams and come out with a good product in a fairly short period of time. Each power point was so different and had their individual touches.”