Countryside Fire Prevention District in Illinois has supported fire and life safety education since its 1959 inception. Its mission has helped instilled this practice: “The District dedicates its activities to the preservation of human life and the conservation of property. To this end the District invests its personnel in the education of its public and the maintenance of a safe environment."
Furthering its mission, the district’s fire chief, Jeff Steingart, created a full-time public education coordinator position with the fire prevention bureau in 2007. Hired by the district in 2000 as a firefighter/paramedic, Tony Rodkey filled the position and eventually increased staffing in the bureau. Among its accomplishments, Countryside has assisted many state-level activities, which includes teaching and hosting a public fire and life safety instructor course. At a time when departments were cutting prevention and inspection programs, Rodkey bolstered staffing. He believes emergency response should not be our first line of defense. Rather, emergency response is the only option after prevention and education fail. Reducing risk via education to the community, according to him, is paramount in saving lives and protecting property. Home fire sprinklers are an important part of this model.
Countryside has made it a point to bolster education on this technology. The district has had a long campaign in the villages and unincorporated areas to adopt residential fire sprinkler ordinances in all buildings, specifically new homes, townhouses, and condominiums. The district itself passed a residential sprinkler requirement in 2004. To help promote this technology, Countryside has showcased fire sprinkler demonstrations and fire behavior lessons to five middle schools for the last 10 years. To date, 11,000 students have received fire safety education as part of their science curriculum since the creation of the public education coordinator.
Tony Rodkey plans to complement these teachings by visiting each of the five schools this September and showcasing a fire sprinkler trailer. This mobile tool provides information on fire sprinklers, the fire triangle, fire behavior, and smoke alarms to students. By bringing the concept of fire sprinklers to school-aged children, the fire service is able to demystify this technology at an early age while promoting its importance.
Countryside exemplifies safety at its best via a dedicated chief, board of trustees, firefighters, and a public educator who has accomplished the district’s mission for nearly 60 years.
This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.
If searching for home fire sprinkler resources catered to children, visit the Sprinkler Smarts pages on the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition site.