Special needs children across the country will soon know what to do when there’s a fire, thanks to training developed by the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department. The department’s fire safety training for special needs youth is expanding beyond the municipality’s borders this month—and getting national attention.
On January 22 at 4 p.m., the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department is teaming up with Georgia-based Blooming Seeds, a STEAM-focused organization that works with children with developmental disabilities, to offer a Special Needs Fire Safety Virtual Workshop for youths nationwide. Click here to sign-up!
“We’re really trying to empower these children and reduce the potential for there to be a real fire emergency or injury,” said Lt. Kris Siegert, who handles fire prevention and public education at the fire department.
While the department has partnered with the Mt. Lebanon School District for decades to teach fire safety to youth, in the last few years they expanded the program and adapted the lessons “to meet the needs of children and young adults with developmental disabilities,” said Siegert, who is known affectionately inside the schools as “Firefighter Kris.”
“We realized that the kids that truly are the most vulnerable population that we have in town—we weren’t reaching them,” Siegert said. So, they created a program from the ground up, finding that there weren’t many programs out there specifically for special needs children to learn fire safety. Their program took them into the Life Skills classrooms at the elementary and high schools to teach youth the fundamentals of fire safety.
That program caught the attention of Blooming Seeds, which contacted the fire department about hosting a virtual training.
Siegert will adapt the hands-on program he typically offers inside the classroom to a Zoom-friendly lesson. He plans to teach the children the basics of fire safety and even delve into what they should and shouldn’t touch—like the top of a hot stove or the flames on a grill.
“It’s really going to be introductory,” he said. “I’m not trying to scare the kids with this by any means. It’s like, ‘Here’s what you do when you see this.’” The lessons, Siegert said, are “designed to be fun, educational and allow the children to learn what to do to help themselves if there is a fire at home.”