Cause for Alarm: PTAs Educate Families about Fire Safety

By Katie Bayerl

With support from Kidde, a Proud National PTA sponsor, local PTAs deliver critical education about fire safety.

“Fire safety is not something that’s frequently discussed in our community, but it’s really important information that affects our families,” says Brock Bridge Elementary PTA President Bonnie Thaden. Brock Bridge was one of the first PTAs to host a fire safety family marquee event during Fire Safety Awareness Month in October 2023 in collaboration with Kidde and National PTA.

“Fire safety is something we practice at school every month, but not something that a lot of families think about at home,” Thaden explains. “We thought this was a great opportunity to support our families in gaining that knowledge base so that they can practice at home.”

Kidde’s Cause for Alarm campaign was created to address the fire safety information gap, one that disproportionately impacts low-income communities, people of color and children. In fact, every day in the United States, at least one child dies from a home fire.1 National PTA is helping to spread the word through a series of community events, developed in partnership with Kidde, that empower families to develop a fire safety plan at home.

Photo: The Sandy Searles Miller Elementary PTA set up activities for the students, including fun photo opportunities.

Did You Know?
Fire Safety Facts

Children practice up to 156 fire drills during their K-12 experience but often do not know what to do at home if the smoke alarm sounds.
Only 26% of American families have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
Having a working smoke alarm doubles the chances of escaping from a home fire safely.

National PTA’s role in the campaign kicked off in October 2023 with three local PTAs serving diverse communities: Brock Bridge Elementary PTA in Laurel, Md.; Sandy Searles Miller Academy PTA in Las Vegas, Nev.; and Winnetka Elementary PTA in Dallas, Texas. These marquee events featured dinner, raffles, activities for kids and a hands-on presentation with time for families to craft their own fire escape plan. All three events provided real-time Spanish translation for families who needed it, and the PTAs received funding and planning support from National PTA.

The Overall Message from Families: Gratitude

“A lot of the families told me that it was the first time they had ever thought about a fire escape plan,’” says Tosha Crossman, president of Sandy Searles Miller Academy PTA. “They really enjoyed the model map that Kidde provided, helping them to plan their escape route from their home.”

Families especially appreciated the concrete tips and tangible resources they received—including a free, ready-to-install smoke detector from Kidde. They were able to get answers to many practical questions too, like:

  • How many smoke detectors do I need in a two-floor home?
  • How often should I replace the batteries?
  • How can we plan an escape route from a multi-story apartment building?

For some recent immigrants, the events provided an important introduction to emergency procedures and resources in their community.

There was a positive energy at each of the events. At Brock Bridge Elementary, 15 parents joined the PTA as a result.

“I think that really hit home with a lot of our families of what the PTA is capable of doing,” Thaden says.

Students at Brock Bridge Elementary School dressed up like firemen and received fun firemen helmets.

It was our pleasure to host the first marquee event with the National PTA and Kidde as a part of their Cause for Alarm campaign. Our families were greatly impacted from the information and materials. We thank Kidde for the generous donation of smoke detectors that we distributed to all our families.

Tosha Crossman, Sandy Searles Miller Academy PTA President

Organizing a High-Impact Fire Safety Event: 4 takeaways

The organizers of National PTA’s marquee fire safety events offered four takeaways for future events.

1. Make it kid friendly.

Fire safety education shouldn’t be scary. Participating PTAs created a celebratory atmosphere with balloons and festive decorations, fire-themed games, activity bags and more. At Brock Bridge Elementary, a fire truck and four other emergency vehicles greeted families in the parking lot—students climbed aboard to explore. The presentation included Kidde’s sing-a-long Cause For Alarm jingle, “Beeps That Last, Get Out Fast,” and fun prizes for kids who answered the pop quiz.

Photo: Students at Winnetka Elementary School received smoke detectors at their event.

“Luis (a presenter from National PTA) was so energetic and lively with the kids,” Thaden says. “He really got them involved, up out of their seats dancing…and not afraid to ask questions.”

2. Focus on building knowledge and agency.

These events met families where they were in their fire safety education, providing actionable tools and insights they could use right away and remember.

Jenn Lombardi, Senior Manager for School and Family Partnerships in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, spoke to several enthusiastic families at the end of the Brock Bridge event. “They found it very informational in a way that didn’t feel like people were talking at them or that this is something they should feel bad for not knowing. They left feeling excited about trying things at home.”

3. Engage community partners.

PTA invited an array of community partners to meet families and share information, including local dentists, the public library, hospital staff and more. Families could get on-site blood pressure readings, sign up for a free dental cleaning and gather information about a range of health, nutrition and safety issues. An additional surprise at Brock Bridge Elementary was a visit from US Congressman Steny Hoyer, who now represents their community following a recent redistricting.

“We received a very nice thank you letter from him,” Thaden says. “It spoke very highly to me that we were able to show another piece of Anne Arundel County to someone who has the ability to make changes that really can impact the future of our families and our county.”

5. Tap into National PTA.

Local PTA organizers were grateful for the capacity-building support they received from National PTA, who provided detailed event materials and templates and funding to help cover food, marketing and other costs. Organizers worked with a PTA event planner to customize their event flow and had a chance to meet with the other organizers over Zoom.

Lombardi says, “PTA really pulled all three sites together to bounce ideas, which was phenomenal… We’d see what another place was doing, and we’d be like, ‘We might want to do that too.’”

Students at Winneteka Elementary School
Students at Winnetka Elementary School Participate in fire safety event.

Bringing Fire Safety to More PTA Communities in 2024

National PTA’s fire safety education efforts have only just begun! Ten additional PTAs will host funded pilot events this spring as well as receive donated smoke detectors from Kidde, and even more PTA communities will have funding opportunities in the 24-25 school year.

Stay tuned for details, and check out the Cause for Alarm Fire Safety Toolkit if your PTA wants to share fire safety information with families in your community.

Kidde is a Proud National PTA Sponsor. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service. No endorsement is implied.

This article is the first in a two-part series. Read part two.


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