Article Contributed by
“911. What’s your emergency?” That could be one of the most important questions a child ever answers.
Teaching safety in the face of fire, street traffic, medicine that looks like candy and firearms that look like toys is the top priority of specially trained experts who go all-out just about every day to prevent unnecessary injuries and unfortunate fatalities for children all across Chautauqua County.
“What I see I may forget, what I hear I may not remember, but what I do, I understand” is the watchword for The Children’s Safety Education Village in Ashville, New York, nestled comfortably beside the BOCES Hewes Center on Rt. 394. Now in its 20th year, The Safety Village was founded by members of the Jamestown Sertoma Club.
“Everything we do here is about hands-on training,” said Terri Kindberg, RN, executive director of Chautauqua County’s charming and very realistic Safety Village, complete with familiar stores and streets, crosswalks, stop signs and lights, fire and police departments, a college, a hospital, an ambulance and much more. The Safety Village looks and feels like a real hometown.
Children learn about – and even act out – many of the emergencies that call for that all-important 911 call to bring the emergency workers, firefighters and first responders to their aid. “We tell them about it in the classroom first, then they get a chance to experience it,” Kindberg explained, “both in the classroom and outside in the streets of the village.”
“We show the children the fire hazards in our kitchen, for example, then we simulate an actual fire,” Kindberg explained. “The kitchen fills up with smoke from our simulated fire-smoke machine and they practice crawling under it to safety. Then we say, ‘Now go home and practice this drill in your own house.’”
Madeline Pescher, a local student, was so impressed by her visit to the Safety Village, she went home and did just that. She told her dad, “We have to practice!” She was so relentless, according to Kindberg, he finally agreed. They formulated a fire escape plan for their home and then retrieved a brand new fire ladder, still in its original package, from under Madeline’s bed.
Later that night, Dad had fallen asleep on the living room couch. He was awakened by Nana, the family’s St. Bernard. Smoke had filled the house and everyone escaped, though the entire home was lost to the fire.
Today, Mr. Pescher is more than willing to talk about fire safety to anyone who will listen, and often does so for visiting classes at The Safety Village where new heroes like Madeline and Nana might be made on any given day.
Learning for Fun
“We love seeing the kids and their families having a good time,” Kindberg said. Children can practice climbing out a window, for instance, and down a fire ladder built into a two-story wall erected inside the classroom. “We try to make it fun the first time, so if they ever need to do it for real, it won’t be too frightening to actually escape from a burning house.”
Some classes are also offered for teenagers who may be left at home with younger siblings so they can learn how to help the smaller children out a window, if needed.
Sparky the Fire Dog talks to kids in the classroom, too, to help make the intimidating, fully garbed firefighter with gas mask and air tanks appear a little less daunting in an otherwise frightening situation. During the class presentations, a fireman also shows children their full gear and kids can volunteer for a fireman to carry them out of the building with the special “fireman’s carry.” It quickly becomes a fun, “Me too!” kind of adventure.
Among the most popular, fun events is the opportunity to actually drive a Safety Village car or bicycle around the village and learn the rules of the road.
Easter Festival and More
On Saturday, March 26, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. the Safety Village will hold its popular Easter Festival, with a gala Easter Parade at noon.
“It is an event where families can feel safe and have fun,” Kindberg said. Business owners whose stores and offices populate the village will be there to pass out candies, gift certificates and coupons. Train Rides, face painting, contests and a Chinese Auction, photo ops with the Easter Bunny and pictures for the Child ID program will also highlight the event.
Characters from Jamestown High School’s recent staging of the Little Mermaid will take part in the event in full costume to greet children, pose with them for pictures and sing some of the most popular show tunes from the play.
Family admission is only $2 and parents can buy tickets for carnival style events, cotton candy, attractions, games and more.
The Halloween Fun Fair in October is similar, according to Kindberg. Kids dress up in friendly costumes and trick-or-treat door-to-door throughout the village and take part in carnival style events. The Safety Village has welcomed as many as 2,500 to 3,000 people for the 3-hour family event.
New Special Offering Firearm Safety
“Recently, things have really changed in our area,” Kindberg said. “There are a lot of guns out there. And a lot of popular video games and TV shows make guns look like playthings.”
As a result, the Safety Village recently launched the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program, a gun accident prevention course that helps parents of Pre-K through 4th graders, law enforcement, community groups and educators safeguard children’s safety if they ever come across a gun.
“It is the gun equivalent of the Stop, Drop & Roll we all learned about fire safety,” Kindberg said. Developed by a task force of key public and private institutions and National Rifle Association’s firearm safety experts, it offers no value judgments about guns, and firearms are never used in the course. Readers can learn more at: https://eddieeagle.nra.org/.
For Grownups Too!
“If you can take a 3- to 4-hour course and literally learn how to save a person’s life, why wouldn’t you do it?” Kindberg asked. “We offer the American Heart Association Heartsaver, Basic Life Saver (CPR) and First AID classes for home and workplace, professional caregivers and private citizens, along with many other courses.”
“And one of our newest offerings is a very popular Women’s Self Defense Course,” Kindberg added. More information can be found on the website, http://www.childrenssafetyvillage.com/ or by calling (716) 338-0170.