Keys to Safety
Rhode Island Program Makes Enduring Effort for Fire Safety
ProLiteracy accredited member Literacy Volunteers of Washington County in Westerly, Rhode Island, was an early adopter of the original Home Safety Literacy Project (HSLP), developed in 2005 by the Home Safety Council in partnership with ProLiteracy and Oklahoma State University Fire Protection Publications. Since then, the team has continued to share important fire and life safety information with participants on a regular basis.
While participating in the HSLP pilot, Literacy Volunteers of Washington County staff formed a strong connection with Chief David Sayles of the Westerly Fire Department. In addition to his fire safety expertise, Sayles contributed a background in curriculum development and a passionate energy for public safety education to the project. He helped design and implement several multi-sensory learning activities to teach students in the program about escape planning, disaster preparedness, and fire safety and prevention.
Sayles also arranged for students, staff, and volunteers to visit the fire station and meet and build rapport with the firefighters. Many students became comfortable enough with the firefighters to open up their homes for safety inspections.
Few of Literacy Volunteers of Washington County’s 150 students are native English speakers, so during the intake and orientation process students learn about the program's escape plan and fire drill procedures. This is particularly important for students who are new to the country; an unexpected fire drill can be a scary and confusing experience for people who are not familiar with the process. This orientation is also an effective way to get students and volunteers thinking about how prevention and safety education can help them protect their own homes and families.
Volunteers also use fire and life safety instructional materials to review timely preparedness and prevention information with students, especially during seasons when flooding, hurricanes, and even tornados are in the news. Framing the discussion around real-life events—such as the recent coastal evacuation and related road closures—allows students to make immediate and practical connections between what they are learning in class and the challenges they are experiencing in real life.
“Literacy Volunteers of Washington County, which is entering its 30th year of service, plans on continuing to cover prevention and safety during intake, orientation, and instructional sessions and partnering with the Westerly Fire Department whenever possible,” says Katie Schisa, Keys to Safety project manager. “They are a great example of how useful and important fire safety materials and information can be in adult literacy programs.”
For more information about Literacy Volunteers of Washington County, visit their website or contact (401) 596-9411.