New Albany News

Fire chief: Early safety training 'paramount' for young children

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Students in Courtney Worley's New Albany Safety Town class wait for the light to change at the intersection of High and Main streets July 11. At the summer Safety Town sessions, local children entering kindergarten and first grade receive daily lessons on such topics as road safety and public safety.JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS (2)

The 10th New Albany Safety Town should have the most participants yet, said director Lisa Carson.

Carson said teachers are expected to have trained 378 students when the Safety Town sessions end July 18. The first two sessions were June 17-27 and the third and fourth were July 8-18.

New Albany Safety Town's permanent home is on Swickard Woods Boulevard, where children ride tricycles on a paved course between buildings, observing stop signs and traffic signals.

The program was created by the New Albany Police Department and Plain Township Fire Department in 2004 to teach safety.

"When you learn fire safety and other life safety rules at a very early age, it's paramount," said Plain Township Fire Chief John Hoovler. "If they learn at a very early age, they never forget."

Carson said the program is open to children ages 5 to 7 who are entering kindergarten or first grade.

"There's always been a demand," Carson said. "This year, we had a waiting list and we expanded the class sizes to accommodate more kids."

Children from New Albany, Blacklick, Gahanna, Johnstown and Westerville attend, Carson said, and many Safety Town graduates are volunteering this year to help others learn as they once did.

"Six of our volunteers were in the very first Safety Town class," Carson said.

Six instructors work with volunteers during four sessions on bicycle, pedestrian and bus safety.

Safety Town sessions have several other components:

* New Albany police officers teach about encountering strangers and the proper use of the 911 emergency phone service. Plain Township firefighters talk about the dangers of fire and poison.

Carson said students tour the New Albany Police Department and Plain Township Fire Station during each session.

* Lifeguards from the Plain Township Aquatic Center teach water safety.

* Representatives of the Dan Emmett Kennel Club explain animal safety and how to approach unfamiliar animals.

* Certified elementary school teachers explain playground safety, a new part of the program added in recent years, Carson said.

The program costs $85 and students take home a bicycle helmet, tote bag, T-shirt and a certificate after they attend a short graduation ceremony.

Carson said Safety Town is supported by several local sponsors.

"We couldn't offer that price without the support of companies in the community," Carson said.