The North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal presented Charlotte Fire with the North Carolina Fire and Life Safety Educator Program of the Year for its third-grade fire safety program.
A team of four Charlotte Fire educators delivers a free third-grade fire and life safety program designed to meet the healthful living objective guidelines of the North Carolina Department of Instruction.
Over the past 11 years, the team has consistently visited every third-grade class in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system within city limits, with the goal of educating students to help prevent injuries and property damage that can result during fire incidents.
"Young children can be taught to respond to a smoke alarm. It is a matter of planning and consistently practicing home fire evacuation with the entire family. Fire does not discriminate, and everyone should have a home fire escape plan," said Amy Rea, Senior Fire and Life Safety Educator with Charlotte Fire.
Students are provided with the knowledge and materials to protect themselves and their families from a fire or burn injury, and teachers receive free program tools and incentives.
According to National Fire Protection Association data, home — the place people feel safest from fire — is where they are at greatest risk, with 74% of all U.S. fire deaths occurring in homes.
When a home fire does occur, it's more likely to be serious; people are more likely to die in a home fire today than they were in 1980.
Children are at great risk of injury in a home fire and are one of the groups with the highest number of fire-related deaths.
"When a house fire starts, children can become very afraid and confused. They may not understand what is happening or how they should react. When going into a classroom, our fire educators create a fun learning environment that allows our kids to learn how to protect themselves if a fire starts," said Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson.
The Charlotte Fire education outreach has a variety of programs which focus on fire safety, including general fire and life safety workshops, senior fire and fall prevention, fire extinguisher training and a citizens' fire academy.
"With as little as two minutes to escape a fire unharmed, there is not enough time to plan a safe escape route when the alarm sounds. It is important for families to maintain working smoke alarms in the home, teach children what to do in case of a fire and regularly practice a home fire escape plan," said Johnson. "I'm incredibly proud of the work our educators have done and continue to do in our community."
Additionally, Rae received the BT Fowler Lifetime Achievement award.
With a background in criminal justice and beginning her career with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, Rea joined Charlotte Fire in 1998.
"After seven years working with devastating crime scenes (with the police department), I had seen enough bad and wanted to prevent injuries and deaths, and I saw that I could make an impact in fire education," said Rea. "You don't have to be a firefighter to love the fire service. There are so many career possibilities. You can find the one that fits you and build a satisfying career on it. I really love what I do."
The North Carolina Fire and Life Safety Education Council B. T. Fowler Lifetime Achievement Award annually recognizes an outstanding and unique individual who has made a difference in preventing the devastating effects of fire, burn injuries and deaths within North Carolina.
"Our educators have pride in our community and a passion to ensure that every home is a safe space for every child. I couldn't be prouder of our team whose work is so critical, and hearts are so giving," Johnson said. "Our educators equip children and adults with the knowledge they need to stay safe in an emergency and help build safe practices and prevent fire incidents from occurring. Teaching and reinforcing this knowledge is something that should be done early and often."