When Jeff Owens was developing a fire safety program in 1995, he knew he needed to get and keep kids’ attention while giving them tips that could one day save their lives.
“Kids have adults standing in front of them all day, every day,” Owens said. “When dogs become the educators, (kids) pay attention.”
With two trained black Labrador retrievers, Owens tours the country with his Kasey Program, educating kids about how to stay safe in the event of a fire.
The Labs, Kasey, 6, and Kali, 3, spent some time with first-grade students at Allison Park Elementary Tuesday.
With a word from their master, Kasey and Kali showed the kids how to stop, drop and roll, how to check to see if a door is hot before opening it, and how to crawl under smoke.
Sara Kunselman, a lieutenant with the Chartiers Township Fire Department, said the department is always looking for new ways to teach Chartiers-Houston students fire safety skills. The Kasey Program, she said, was the perfect fit.
Owens, a retired firefighter and paramedic, also plays guitar and sings to reinforce safety skills.
Kasy and Kali wear the badge of the Wayne Township Fire Department, Indiana. Owens said the dogs are easily trained, as “they only want to make you happy.” They also are trained in search and rescue and are therapy dogs at burn camps.
Owens said the program teaches more than 400,000 children annually, in more than 400 programs across the United States. Since starting, the program has been credited with helping to save 16 lives.
After each student had the opportunity to pet the Labs, members of the Chartiers Township and Houston fire departments displayed firetrucks and donned the clothes and gear they wear while at work.
With about 80 additional pounds on their bodies, firefighters crawled toward the children to show them what they would like in a rescue situation.
“We don’t want you to be afraid,” said firefighter Gary Friend.
Owens stressed to the children that their job is to get out during a fire, and to never go back into the house to rescue anyone or anything. He also told them not to hide during a fire, and to make noise and yell so that people can find them.
Of all the information he gives the children, Owens said the one tip a lot of kids don’t know is to sleep with their bedroom doors closed at night to stop the spread of smoke and fire.