While many cities feature a Firefighters Museum – presenting the rich history of this noble profession – the Village of Montgomery, NY is one of the few to also include a dedicated Fire Safety Education Center to host fire safety presentations.
“Education was always part of the mission statement for the firefighters museum,” says Marybeth Majestic, Administrative Assistant for the Orange County Firefighters Museum and Fire Safety Education Center. “The property also lent itself well to it: the museum is housed in the old Village of Montgomery firehouse, which featured a barn where the horses that drew the firefighters’ carriages would stay. That barn was the perfect extension to place our education center.”
Being located only one block away from the fire station, the Fire Safety Education Center shares many resources with the local Fire Department. “When schools visit the education center, the Fire Department will bring in a fire truck along with ‘Tank’, their inflatable mascot, to enhance the presentation. In return, the museum will provide the Fire Department with our portable Hazard Kitchen simulator for presentations and special events held at the firehouse, when requested.”
The Hazard Kitchen fire safety simulator
The Fire Safety Education Center features multiple learning stations:
- Child-Size firefighter turn-out gear and helmets allow children to dress up as firefighters. At the same time, a mannequin dressed in full turn-out gear or occasionally a real firefighter will demonstrate the elements of their equipment, complete with breathing apparatuses. This helps making children feel more comfortable with what they might perceive as intimidating outfits.
- One presentation area features a Smart Board and projector, where children are asked to identify fire safety hazards on the screen. All presentation areas can comfortably accommodate about 30 elementary school students. The lucky ones can even sit on the firetruck benches during the presentations!
- A 9-1-1 simulator telephone helps teach children how to properly use 9-1-1 and what they need to know in case of an emergency.
- Finally, there is an open area that is perfect to practice “Stop, Drop and Roll” routines.
But the centerpiece of the Fire Safety Education Center is certainly the Hazard Kitchen fire safety simulator, looking all the more convincing considering it is set up in an actual kitchen! “At the time the horse barn was being renovated, one of the members of the board was updating their kitchen: their old cabinets and countertops were recycled and integrated in the education center to help teach fire safety and prevention.”
In context, the simulator looks so real that the audience needs to be reassured that the fires are not! “We begin the presentation by telling the children that it is all pretend, and not to be afraid. But still, when the special effects like the moving flames in the kitchen pot or toaster start, the children are mesmerized. It’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop!”
However, children warm up to the presentation quickly through participation and interactivity. “We ask our students to point out what is right or wrong in the kitchen throughout the presentation.”
And there’s no doubt the children take home the lessons learned. “We had a five-year old who remembered what to do when she called 9-1-1, which probably saved her grandmother’s life.” Children also help relay fire safety information back to their parents, grandparents and other family members through homework assignments, like planning and practicing fire escape routes, learning their addresses for 9-1-1 and checking the batteries of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.
The Orange County Firefighters Museum and Fire Safety Education Center is further considering the addition of a Hazard House simulator, which would help show children, and their families, how to identify and prevent fire hazards in all rooms of the house.
Plans for the future
The Orange County Firefighters Museum and Fire Safety Education Center already host an annual gala to honor the outstanding work of “Fire Prevention Officers” by recognizing a Fire Prevention Officer of the Year. Through initiatives like this, the Fire Safety Education Center hopes to increase awareness in the tri-county, tristate areas, and encourage organizations to visit and make good use of its facilities.
For more information, visit the museum website - ocfm.us and follow them on Facebook.
Next to the Orange County Firefighters Museum is a dedicated Fire Safety Education Center.
The Fire Safety Education Center is housed in what was the barn of the Old Ville of Montgomery Firehouse.
Child-Size firefighter turn-out gear and helmets allow children to dress up as firefighters
All presentation areas can comfortably accommodate about 30 elementary school students.