Fire Drill Provides Learning Experience

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A new program aims at improving fire safety at Des Moines schools. The program is called Fire Drills as a Learning Experience. Fire Marshal Jonathan Lund says, "It's actually a result of a research project I did for the executive fire officer program."

Brody Middle School tested out the program as a pilot project last year. The goal is to make fire drills a learning experience for students. Lund says, “From Kindergarten through high school, students go through 120 fire drills, and every time they hear the fire alarm go off, it’s always a drill. So, we’ve created this culture in adults that we ignore the fire alarm because it’s always a drill.”

Six Des Moines Middle Schools are using the program now. The program includes six drills throughout the year. The students learn it's a drill right before the alarm sounds. Once the students file out, teachers take attendance and hold up cards when everyone is there. The Des Moines Fire Department comes to the school for one of the drills. Lund says, "It gives the crews an opportunity to get in and see where the sprinkler risers are, where the fire alarm panels are. They get to interface with the school faculty, which doesn't happen on a regular basis."

Throughout the year, teachers incorporate fire safety lesson plans. Students are even tested. Brody Middle School Principal Thomas Hoffman says the program was successful last year. He says, "The teachers really liked the ability to do a lesson plan before and after the fire drill, the kids thought it was more meaningful. We saw an improvement in student behavior during the fire drill."

The next step is to create fire safety lesson plans for elementary schools. Lund says after that, he'd like to work with high schools and even universities.

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