Monday, November 5, 2007

The Woodlands Fire Department Life And Fire Safety (LAFS) Program

In a land far far away, A.K.A. Perry, Ohio (30 miles east of Cleveland) I remember sitting with my 3rd grade classmates in the cafeteria wondering why we were there. Not long after all the kids settled down, walked in 3 fully dressed firefighters (FFs) and all the kids gasped with excitement. The FFs showed us some simple equipment they use to fight fighters, explained Stop Drop and Roll along with other fire safety tips. Prior to leaving they handed out tooth brushes and told us all to brush our teeth. Not only did I learn valuable fire safety information, but I also made sure I brushed my teeth because the FFs told me that it was important. I am almost 38 and I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
There has been a lot said, some negative, about The Woodlands Fire Department's (WFD) Clown and Puppet program so I wanted to take a look at the program myself. The clowns are FFs with The WFD. I contacted Chief Alan Benson to schedule a time to visit a school and watch the program in action. The WFD has a limited amount of time during fire safety month in October to get their message to the kids. Since fire safety month was over I was invited to Central Station to watch a video that was filmed at one of the schools this year. The video was poor quality, but proved the following:
  • The Clown's were able to keep a room full of children focused and quiet for nearly 30 minutes to learn about fire safety.
  • The children interacted with the FF's which reinforced the safety message.
  • The Clowns enjoy what they are doing and believe that their message is getting across to the children and I agree after seeing the video.
I requested a copy of the video at the meeting and later in writing and to date have not received a copy. I was given THIS VIDEO anonymously to better help my readers understand the program.
I asked to see the puppet show and was promised an invite for a show shortly after the meeting and did not receive an invite nor have I received any invites for a future show.
This year Approximately 8000 kids viewed the program in a 6 week period. Depending on the age group the kids learned the following in 2007:
  1. Stop, Drop, Cover and Roll.

  2. EDITH (Exit Drills In The Home).

  3. Seat belt safety.

  4. Call 911 for emergency.

  5. Fire ABC's (always Be Calm).

  6. Get low under the smoke and crawl to safety.

  7. Kitchen safety and cool the burn with cool clear water.
FFs also visit senior centers to review the following:
  1. Locate and how to exit safely

  2. Location of fire extinguishers and how to operate.

  3. hurricane evacuation procedures.
In the past there has been a lot of negative press regarding the Clown and Puppet program. After visiting with Fire Chief Alan Benson, Deputy Chief - Training Rick Windham, Deputy Chief Support Services Jerry Bittner (Deputy Chief - Operations Wayne Walker was not present) and FF TJ Moore and watching the video I believe the program is a good idea and should continue. A stack of thank you notes from the children who were in attendance of the program also validates it's effectiveness.
As the meeting ended I asked to see the controversial trailer used to haul the Clown and Puppet props and was told it was in storage. I've since learned that the trailer was behind the Central Station. I've inquired with Chief Alan Benson why I was not shown the trailer and have yet to receive a response. I hope the Chief will clarify where the breakdown in communication was regarding my request to see the trailer. Since sending the email to Chief Benson I was able to talk to a Deputy Chief and learned that the Clown and Puppet trailer has not been outfitted yet to carry the Clown and Puppet props. I am very confused with why the money was spent on this trailer and it doesn't appear that it's being used. I was also told that the trailer was used for multiple purposes and have not received a definitive answer to what other purposes the trailer is being used for.

Clown and Puppet Trailer

Another controversial issue is that the FFs were sent to a town 60 miles from Las Vegas for LAFS (Life And Fire Safety) training. Personally I don't believe this is an issue since it was a one time training session with may other Fire Departments (FDs) and maybe if the word Las Vegas was not in the mix, the critics would not be as upset. I hope that future training is done in house by the currently trained FFs so there is no need to spend anymore of the tax payers money. Other alternatives are online or DVD training to cut costs or working with local FDs to hone skills and come up with new creative ideas.

Summary: The FFs are doing a good job with the Clown and Puppet program. I am not going to complain about past issues (ie: trailer cost & travel) since we don't know, and may never know, how many lives have been affected or saved from the program. I just ask that cost be considered in the future while keeping the program at it's current level of excellence. If the trailer truly isn't being used then it's my opinion that it should be sold and the profits be donated to charity. The FF's can continue to use the Fire Safety House to transport their props.

Fact: There has only been 4 structural fire deaths in The Woodlands since the WFD was established.

To TWFFs: THANK YOU and GOD BLESS YOU for all your hard work.
PS: Have any of the FFs noticed that most, if not all, hydrants are now free of vegetation? You're welcome. :-)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Precinct 3 Commissioner, Ed Chance, Approves CATW for SBP

Precinct 3 Commissioner, Ed Chance, Approves CATW for Sign Bandit Program (SBP). Program has not been decided yet. The program has not been finalized with the County Attorney's office. To the best of our knowledge any sign under $25 in value in The Woodlands Right of Ways (ROW) will be confiscated and destroyed. Also, to the best of our knowledge the owner of any sign over $25 in value in The Woodlands Right of Ways (ROW) will be fined $500.

Two Groups have been appointed by Mr Chance:
Community Activists of The Woodlands &
Community Associations of The Woodlands