For the Cinnaminson Fire Department, impacting youth is a main goal. While the fire department has many ways to get in touch with young people, one of the main opportunities is its second-grade reading program.
The 18 full-time firefighters are split up into three, five-man platoons. Two firefighters are assigned to fire prevention, including public education, and one firefighter is assigned to track all firefighter training. Each member of the fire department is passionate about the second-grade reading program because it gives them a chance to properly teach the youth fire safety, as well as make them aware that the fire department is there for their safety.
“Community support of the fire service is just as important as us supporting the community. We have to be out in the community and we have to be visible,” said Fire Chief William Kramer. “There are eight second-grade classes in the New Albany Elementary School, and we read to each one of those classes monthly. The three firefighter platoons have the classes split up, and it’s a two-fold system so they do some reading and they also do a project with them. Most of the reading is generally safety oriented. It could be fire safety or bike safety, and, depending on the time of the year, we may switch it up and do holiday safety.”
The reading program was created four years ago to influence the kids early. While the police department starts the D.A.R.E. Program in third grade, according to Kramer, second grade is the perfect time to start talking to the kids about fire safety and safety in general.
“Young kids really look up to and respect people in uniforms,” said Kramer. “There are certain things that as a kid you always remember. The fire training you get as a kid always stays with you. You’ll always remember to stop, drop and roll. That’s something that’s embedded in you.
“A lot of fire departments will do some fire safety during Fire Prevention Week and then that’s it,” Kramer continued. “They don’t have the resources to do it outside of that one day that week. This allows us to do it all year. It’s a reminder of the lessons they learn every month. It’s something they can take back and talk to their parents about and that in of itself is one of the big reasons we thought this was a good thing to do. We know the way to the parents, especially with fire safety stuff, is through the kids.”
However, while the reading program is used to teach the youth and their parents about fire safety, the fire department also uses the program as an early recruiting tool. The fire department has many other programs to get the youth involved, such as an extension of the Boys Scouts called the Explorers Post. The fire department offers 16-year-olds the opportunity to become junior firefighters and also sponsors a program called “After the Fire” directed toward seniors in high school.
“The program is put on by two guys who survived the Seton Hall dormitory fire back in 2000,” said Kramer. “They discuss why it’s important to take fire safety important. It really hits home for the kids. Our goal here is for kids who are going on the college search to ask what the fire policies and regulations are for their dormitories, but it’s not just for college, fire safety applies to all areas in life.”