Our SAFE Program

Welcome to the website for the Amherst Pelham Leverett Shutesbury Student Awareness of Fire Education (SAFE) program! We offer fire safety education to students in the Amherst, Pelham, Leverett and Shutesbury school systems. Introduced in 1996, SAFE is part of a larger, statewide fire education initiative.  We hope this site will provide you with information about our program and the types of activities with which we are involved.

Philosophy There are several popular "reality" programs on the television these days which promote "survivor" strategies. Regardless of your point-of-view regarding reality programming on the whole, programs like Worst Case Scenario are not simply vicarious melodrama. They can provide an otherwise unknowing public with potentially lifesaving information. Take, for example, an episode that dealt with surviving inside a car which has plunged into a body of water. [Granted, you say, "That won't happen to me." Perhaps...but would you know how to survive if it did?] Basic survival in this scenario hinges upon quickly opening a window instead of a door (before the electrical system is shorted out by the water). Trying to open the door before the vehicle is filled with water means having to fight the pressure of the water against the door. But opening the window (after taking a good deep breath!) is a good deal easier.

This kind of education in handling emergency situations is a basic tenet of SAFE: frightened children do not escape home fires; educated children do. It is NEVER our intention to scare children about the dangers of fire...even though those very real dangers can be quite terrifying. Rather, this program has been designed to acknowledge several key points about children and how they learn:

1.Kids are smart.                                                         

2.Kids can understand the concept of "danger" without having to be terrified.

3.Kids need a plan.

4.Kids want to be pro-active, not reactive.

During the very first lesson of our program, we show the students a very short real-time video of a house fire which starts in a waste basket. After no more than 4-5 minutes, the house is ablaze. No people are in the video; no one is hurt. The film is not designed to strike a chord of fear nor is it melodramatic. The point of the film is to demonstrate how quickly a fire moves within a structure, much more quickly in fact than most adults are willing to acknowledge. Immediately following the video, we start instructing the students how to successfully escape a home fire. In other words, we acknowledge the true danger of fire but then provide the tactics for survival.

As firefighters, we know that a house fire can be deadly to small children and to older adults if they remain unprepared and do not understand the swift growth of this type of fire. Adults are more than willing to trust fate that they will never be involved in a fire. But that should not be the case when you are considering the safety of your children and your family.

So, let us ask you, honestly: Does everyone in your family know what to do if the smoke detectors wake you in the middle of the night? Have you planned for two ways out of every room in your house or apartment? Have you considered how to get the children out in case the main stairway of your house is blocked by smoke? Do they know enough to get out themselves and place a call for help? Once out of the house, where would they go? How will you know everyone is out of the house or apartment? Do your children know enough not to re-enter the house? Do you?!

And when was the last time you checked your smoke detectors? Honestly!

This program is designed to teach children that fire prevention and fire safety behaviors should be a part of everyday life. It is not rocket science. However, as much as it may seem like common sense to an adult, it is often the adults in a household who overlook this clear responsibility to their families.

It is important to recognize that, much like CPR and First Aid training, fire safety education can prepare people to act properly when faced with an emergency. Preparation makes people proactive. They recognize danger early and they are trained to react. It turns victims into survivors; in some cases, it even makes them rescuers.

We call SAFE "lessons to last a lifetime." In the absence of other fire safety instruction later in life, we hope that this instruction will in fact be of service to your children long after they have moved into adulthood. You may already be saying to yourself, "But I never got this when I was a kid!" Possibly not. That merely makes it that much more clear that your children should know how to handle an emergency.

If you have any questions regarding the philosophy of the SAFE program or any of its lessons, please feel free to contact John Ingram by e-mail.  ingramj@amherstma.org