With the holidays approaching, Lt. Larry Gray of the Cleveland Fire Department is growing increasingly concerned about the safety of the city’s children. Gray, who is also an NFPA Education Section director, said during a recent board meeting that Cleveland has a high number of children who leave for school and come home while their parents are at work.
Some of these children cook meals and take care of younger siblings without adult supervision, increasing the potential for fire. In addition, many of the parents of these latchkey children don’t have time off during the holidays, which means children are left unsupervised for long stretches of time.
Gray, pictured here with Education Section Board Secretary Monica Colby, is addressing his concerns by making fire and life safety presentations during after-school programs. “An after-school setting offers a great opportunity to provide safety information to children,” he said. “They’re receptive because they’ve been in school all day. The atmosphere is a little more relaxed, and the children are focused.”
So far this year, Gray has made presentations at four schools. He hopes to get members of the department involved to build a team of presenters. His goal is to reach all of the city’s public schools.
“I encourage other fire departments to look into this because this problem is all over, and after-school programs are a great way to reach these children without interfering with their school day,” he said.