WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) — When the coronavirus pandemic struck, fire departments suddenly lost the ability to go to schools to teach fire prevention. So one South Jersey department found another way.

“When coronavirus hit, you know, we started thinking ahead and especially when it got later in the summer towards October, which is Fire Prevention Month. We realized that we still wanted to get the message out to the kids,” said Adam Seczech, firefighter and fire prevention coordinator for the Washington Township Fire Department. “COVID really handcuffs us on what we could and could not do.”

“We knew that this was going to potentially have long-term effects on our community risk reduction program and our safety initiatives that we do here in Washington Township,” Washington Township Fire Department Chief Patrick Dolgos said.

“We basically were just, you know, answering calls, we couldn’t do the extra community stuff like we usually do,” Seczech said.

“We met with our Bureau of Fire Prevention and Fire Prevention Coordinator and did some to come up with some ideas on how we can continue to get the message out to our community,” Dolgos said.

“We started to like come together with a plan to where we can have a program that we would do in school to produce a video with all of our messages that we usually do,” Seczech said. “So we did two different videos, one for our preschool-age children and one for elementary-age children.”

“We were so excited when the Washington Township Fire Department reached out to us because we would not have been able to offer the service to students,” Washington Township Public Schools Director of Elementary Education Gretchen Gerber said.

“This could not have been done in any other way in this environment because we couldn’t have any assemblies, which is so important because not only do they get the message about fire safety, but they also talk about planning an evacuation route in your home, and that video really demonstrated explicitly how kids can go through the steps and help their families,” Gerber said.

“You want to build a strong foundation when they’re young because it’s important, and kids need to know what happens in a fire. So we show them that, you know, not to scare them but to educate them. Nobody wants to see anybody die in a fire, let alone a child,” Seczech said.

To view the Washington Township Fire Department’s virtual fire safety videos click here for preschool children and here for elementary children, or check out their Facebook page.

Eyewitness News photojournalist James Ward reports.


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