Children’s Safety is of utmost concern to every parent, grandparent, educator, care-giver, and essentially all citizens. Prevention of accidents, injuries and deaths among our young people is an important goal of any Police and Fire Department, and the main goal of the Safety City program. In our hands-on, indoor-outdoor learning atmosphere, the realism helps us make a memorable impact upon the students. Here we can teach by the use of all of their senses, multiple skills to prevent traffic accidents, fires, and crimes. Wearing their seat belts and bike helmets makes sense when they learn what may happen if when they don’t.
The practice given the children will prepare them to handle emergency situations, when saving precious seconds results in lives saved. Specially-assigned police and fire personnel are instructors who can share their experience. A call-simulator shows that knowing their address helps speed a response when dialing 911.
Safety City is located behind the North Charleston Recreation Center ballfields, off of 21st, at 7th Avenue in Charleston. It was created in 1985 by the Charleston Police Department to teach traffic safety to children, and was joined by the Charleston Fire Department, adding a fire safety program. Ample parking is located just outside the complex. The facility has a classroom building that is handicapped accessible and furnished with a boys and girls restroom. The other working structures are a garage/workroom and a Fire Safety House. A mock city is connected to these, with scaled-down paved streets, curbs, and sidewalks, a working traffic signal, a railroad crossing signal, and various traffic control signs. We have non-functional buildings, which are scaled-down versions of businesses in Charleston, including Columbia Natural Resources, B.B.&T. Bank, Verizon, Lowe’s Home Center, McDonald’s, Shoney’s, WV/American Water, and a U.S. Post Office. A working lighthouse was recently added by the Pilot Club of the Greater Kanawha Valley. Sponsors maintain their buildings, and Charleston Parks & Recreation groundskeepers maintain the lawn and landscaping.
The children are allowed to drive on the “street” in electric-powered cars. The cars are purchased entirely or partially by sponsors, and bear the logos such as Cellular One, AEP, Columbia Natural Resources, Royal Olds, McDonald’s, WV/American Water Co., State Farm Insurance, and Verizon. Upkeep on the cars and the non-sponsored buildings is handled by Charleston Police Officers.
Third-Grade level children are at the most appropriate age to attend Safety City and retain what they learn. Kanawha County Schools schedules the students as a half-day field trip, and in an average school year, approx. 3000 Third-Grade students are served. Private schools and an organized home-school group also schedule trips to Safety City, adding about 100 more Third-Grade students. On occasion, a scout group or other group may come to Safety City. Each class will have a Police Officer and a Firefighter or Paramedic to instruct the appropriate portions of the class. Topics covered include Seat Belt Use, Pedestrian Safety, Railroad Crossing Safety, Bicycle Safety and Helmets, Home-Hazards Safety (with “Don’t Touch Guns” instruction), Stranger Awareness, “Good Touch /Bad Touch” sexual abuse awareness, Dialing 9-1-1 for Emergencies, Fire Prevention, Smoke Detectors, “Stop, Drop & Roll” if clothes on fire, Home Fire Escape Plan, and any special topics of interest, such as shelter-in place in case of chemical leaks, or whatever the teacher may want stressed. Videos, lecture, and Question-and-Answer segments are used. Children also learn about the job of a Police Officer, Firefighter, and Paramedic and how to help them.
Reinforcement for the instruction is done through the teachers upon return to their classroom, many have broader safety units which compliment what they learned in the “hands-on” practice at safety city. The children also take home incentive learning tools, such as pencils, rulers, coloring books, stickers, and other items with safety message imprints.
What is needed to continue this valuable program are funds for materials and labor to deal with the upkeep of facilities and cars, purchase of parts or new cars, classroom supplies and incentives, and replacement of worn or outdated videos, with the addition of closed-captioned videos.