Life-Saving Lessons for Children
by Stephanie Brown
Safety first, is safety always. -Charles M. Hayes
The Safety Park of Adams County, located in Decatur, Indiana, has been teaching the youth of the community the importance of such things as fire safety and pedestrian and bicycle safety since the early 90s. Jeff Sheets, who has been teaching at the safety park for more than 17 years, says “Not only is this important stuff that the kids need to know, but they also have a blast when they are here…and we do, too!”
The children’s training starts in kindergarten, as they focus on pedestrian safety. Some of the lesson is taught in a classroom, but most of it takes place in the Safety Village. Half of the students play the role of a pedestrian walking though the village, while the other half get to ride on little four-wheelers, playing the role of motorist. All the while, children on both sides are learning the rules of the road
Jeff jokes, “There are usually a few crashes because the kids are new at all of this road safety stuff. But, it’s all a great learning experience for them.”
In third grade, children are introduced to bicycle safety, also taught in the village. “It’s all pretty much defensive driving for the children on bikes,” Jeff explains.
“We teach them how to avoid animals on the road, to always watch for cars, and we go deeper into the rules of the road. We have bikes down at the village that the kids get to practice with to test their knowledge, and to show us what they have learned.”
The final stage of the Safety Park is the Survival Life House, an important training program aimed at fourth grade students. This is where the children learn how to make an escape plan in case of a fire, and they are taught how to safely lower themselves out of a window in such an emergency.
“We show them how to properly position themselves so they can easily straddle the window, then carefully bring both legs to where they are outside of the window. From there, we teach them how to twist their bodies and flatten their stomachs against the side of the house, while slowly lowering themselves out of the window.
“We have a firefighter on the other side of the window who helps the kids remember the steps and assists them in getting out,” says Jeff. “There are still risks with this method of escaping a burning house, but you have more control of where—and, more importantly, how—you land. It greatly reduces the risk of hitting your head, and therefore increases your chance of survival.”
When asked what tips are most important, Jeff replies, “Always sleep with your doors closed. I know a lot of parents struggle with this because they want to be able to hear their children, and for that, we suggest purchasing a baby monitor.
“Houses and everyday products aren’t made like they used to be, and the gasses and smoke released from burning plastics are far more hazardous than the fire itself. Those gasses actually put you into a deeper sleep, so if you close your door at night, it gives you extra time to get out in the event of a fire.
“We also tell the kids that fire alarms are their first line of defense, and they need their batteries changed twice a year and tested every month. We always like to add that if Mom or Dad’s cooking sets the alarm off, that doesn’t count for the monthly testing!”
Jeff adds, “Thankfully, most kids won’t have to go through a house fire, but this is crucial information that they need to know, just in case. The stuff that we teach them here could be the difference between life and death.
“We have actually had two success stories, where the children involved remembered the steps that were taught at the Safety Park and helped get their families out of a burning house.” One of those incidents was featured in a United Way commercial.
“It was the coolest thing to see how much work goes into making a two-minute commercial, and to be a part of it all,” Jeff recalls. “With the help of the Decatur Police Department, we were able to shut down a few of the side roads and get an aerial video of the fire department making their way across town. The little girl involved got to share her story, and I think that just helps to drive home how important it is to continue to teach fire safety to the children.”
It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and after raising children in a community such as ours, that statement is relatively hard to dispute. From the sweet guidance offered by neighbors, friends, and people of the community, to the lessons taught at school and the team-player attitude instilled at baseball practice, it truly is a blessing to have positive support from those around you while raising your family.
The Safety Park of Adams County is a big part of that “village,” as well, and the information they provide has proven to be life-saving.
Safety Park of Adams County
Adams Street & 12th Street
Decatur, IN 46733