Firefighters make learning fun

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Being taught safety and fire prevention doesn't necessarily have to be boring.
Especially not when what is presented is thought through and well organized.
That's exactly what the Niles township and city fire departments manage to do in their public safety education program, which they take to area schools twice a year.
On Monday, staff from the two departments visited Northside Child Development Center to teach students about fire safety, and other safety related issues.
With their puppet, "Flicker," a miniature fire truck called "Flash," the performing firefighters seemed to grab the youngsters' attention from the get-go.
The show includes the stop-drop-and roll technique, important information to know before calling 9-1-1, how to escape a burning house and safety tips for camping trips.
Myers, however, is also the hand and voice behind "Flicker."
He describes the puppet as a "smart alec," who thinks he knows everything.
Myers said he sometimes makes the puppet appear dense by providing wrong answers to questions about safety, a technique used to engage students to respond to the same questions.
The technique appeared to work well on Monday as the students were quick to raise their hands when "Flicker" gave wrong answers.
Cindy Wickham, Northside's principal, is glad to have the fire departments come through twice a year to teach her students about fire safety.
She also thinks the fire departments have developed a program that makes the children remember what they are exposed to.
Wickham also said safety is obviously important and "the more they hear it the better they know it."
Dan Tackett, a city fire department driver, performs as "Lt. Dan," during the show, which also includes a multi-media presentation with sound.
Tackett, who has been with the new program since it started two years ago, said a total of eight to 10 firefighters from both departments are involved in the show. Each show lasts for 40 minutes. Tackett also said lots of volunteers help out to keep the show on the road. In addition to doing schools, Tackett said the show this year also appeared at the Berrien County Youth Fair and at the Apple Festival. Donations from local businesses, such as Wal-Mart, who is a big contributor to the program, Toefco and Richs Pizzaria, all of Niles, help keep the program on the road.