Sheryl Watts, a Safe at Home trainer for Prevention 1st, sees firsthand the positive effect the program has on individuals and their families
Recently she worked with Christopher, a young man who lives with his parents and was excited every week about what he was learning. And he loved sharing his knowledge, often saying at the end of his session with Sheryl: “I can’t wait for Dad to come home so I can teach him this!”
His excitement rose highest at the final session, when he was able to perform all the safety techniques he’d learned without prompting. When Sheryl told him he was officially graduated and would get a certificate, his reveled in his accomplishment: “I can’t believe I did that!”
Safe at Home trainers all have a fire safety background. Sheryl also works full-time at Lifetime Assistance, where she is in charge of fire safety. Each training starts with an assessment of any fire hazards in the home, and for this Sheryl often teams up with another trainer who has experience as a firefighter.
At the first session she also assesses the current fire safety knowledge of the person being trained. Then in 30-45 minute in-home weekly sessions, Sheryl teaches them about cooking safety, identifying fire hazards, locating and testing smoke alarms, exiting when the alarm goes off, and calling 9-1-1. Each week the previous week’s lessons are also reviewed.
Training may last from 3 weeks to 8 weeks depending on the person’s knowledge at the beginning and how well they retain new knowledge. At the end of each of Christopher’s sessions, Sheryl talked about what he had learned with his mother, who worked with him between weekly sessions.
“Actually practicing the techniques is important,” explains Sheryl. “Christopher learned how to exit his bedroom safely if the alarm goes off: test the door using the back of the hand, take a cell phone and shoes, and if the door is hot how to block smoke from under the door and go to the window to signal for help”.
Safe at Home is customized to the individual. Sheryl has worked with one young woman with autism who wasn’t very verbal. So they made picture cards together and then used them as part of learning.
“I’d ask ‘There’s a noise going off, what could that be?’ And she’d point to the alarm, “ Sheryl explains. “We’d lay out the cards in a sequence showing what might make the alarm go off—fire—and what we should do next—an exit.”
All of Sheryl’s trainees have one thing in common: “They really want to learn, and to be safe.”
Seeing the sense of accomplishment they get from their achievements is very rewarding for Sheryl. So is their determination to apply what they’ve learned. For example, at the beginning of his training Christopher could find the smoke alarm but didn’t know how to test it. Sheryl demonstrated the test button and they discussed how important it is that the alarm is always working. Now Christopher is looking forward to testing those alarms–with his father–every month.