Super Chief, alias Jason Hancock with the Albany Fire Department, entertains some kids at the closing of the AFD’s Kids Fire Safety Day at the Albany Civic Center. Super Chief is the leader of the Fire Safety Justice League. Staff photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — How do you stay safe from smoke and flame? Why, you call on the Fire Prevention Justice League, of course.
Heroes like Water Boy and Fire Extinguisher Girl will help you defeat the evil Firestarter Gang. That’s part of the message children from seven counties received Wednesday at the Albany Civic Center when they attended the Albany Fire Department’s 19th annual Kids Fire Safety Day event.
Delivered in quick interactive quizzes and sing-along skits, the caped and costumed super heroes defeated bad guys like Flame, Smoke, Match Boy, Lighter Boy and Scorch. Firefighter volunteers hope kids from pre-school to third grade will take the lifesaving messages to their families.
“You can’t measure the fires you prevent,” said Fire Chief James Carswell, “but we know we’re preventing fires from happening. (The kids) are excited about it. They’re entertained, but go back with what they’ve learned and it generates family conversations.”
Carswell figures around 4,000 kids came to Wednesday’s show, and from that the fire prevention gospel will spread to tens of thousands more.
State Fire Marshal Dwayne Garriss, who attended the event, agreed.
“This is spectacular,” Garriss said. “You see these kids having fun, and still getting the message. We hope this helps alert the families. We want people to check their smoke alarms and change their batteries. If the alarms are more than ten years old, they should throw them out. They should know how to get out of a house, never to leave cooking unattended, and for children — the kitchen in not a place to play.”
Garriss said there have been 92 deaths in Georgia this year — much higher than average at this point — and cold weather is coming on. That means more fires originating from home heating.
According to Carswell, in the early years of the Safety Day, hand puppets were used to drive home the messages. But because of changes in technology and entertainment, puppets just aren’t enough to grab kids’ attention these days.
“There are so many things now that can stimulate (the kids), you have to change the delivery method,” Carswell said. “If they’re bored, the attention span is not going to be there. The Fire Prevention Justice League and the Firestarter Gang, good over evil — if you prepare yourself properly you can defeat the Firestarter Gang. The sing-alongs repeat those messages.”
A major reason for the energy and high production value of the safety show is the dedication of the firefighter volunteers, Carswell said.
“Firefighters see the other side of the coin,” Carswell said. “They actually see the death and destruction when they respond to emergencies, so they’re passionate about trying to prevent those fires from ever happening.”
The last four Safety Days have been produced by Assistant Fire Chief Sebon Burns, who says they’ve been getting more elaborate every year.
“This is definitely the best one yet,” Burns said. “October is national Fire Prevention Month for the National Fire Prevention Agency and their theme year is kitchen fire safety. We were able to incorporate that into some of our skits for the show. Our message is resonating through the community. We make sure it gets there.”