Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Northville Township wins prestigious fire education award

 The Northville Township Fire Department Kindergarten Fire and Life Safety Education Program was recently honored with the prestigious 2023 Leland Gayheart Prevention Award from the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center and the Gayheart family. 

Managing Director Karla Klas of the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center, Injury Prevention and Community Outreach, who represents the Leland Gayheart Award Committee, presented the plaque and a $1,000 honorarium at the April 18 Northville Township Board of Trustees meeting where she praised the program for comprehensiveness.

    “They are reaching our children at an early age and already starting to teach them the safety and critical thinking skills that they need,” Klas told the trustees.

Deputy Fire Chief Tom Hughes created the curriculum in 2017 in collaboration with Northville Public Schools. Every kindergarten student undergoes fire prevention and life safety lessons during a week in the fall. Superintendent of Northville Public Schools  Dr. R.J. Webber was on hand for the award 


    Primary instructors of the classes are Lt. Michael Obermiller and Firefighter/Paramedic Jeff Sims. They provide fire safety curriculum to the classrooms of all six schools, including one in the City of Northville and the other in Novi. The lessons are taught by district kindergarten teachers who teach four main concepts: 1) Firefighters are community helpers, 2) Stay away from hot things, 3) Smoke alarms are important, and 4) Get outside and stay outside. On the fifth day, the students have an onsite field trip.

    Firefighters visit the classes offering instruction, demonstrations and a fire truck tour. Northville Township Fire Department personnel conduct the entire event at all township schools, while the City of Northville and the City of Novi fire departments bring their fire trucks and staff for the truck demonstration events in their jurisdiction.

    “It’s a true partnership in the name of fire prevention,” Hughes said. There is also a partnership with parents. Because the primary risk for fire occurs at home, students bring handouts to their parents to share throughout the five-day course in school, reinforcing the importance of these safety messages directly to those most responsible for their children’s safety.

    “Our goal was to turn our public education programs from ‘trucks and helmets’ to evidence-based, vetted fire and life safety messages that focus directly on our community in an age-appropriate way,” Hughes explained. Since 2017, this program has reached 114 kindergarten classes and more than 2,500 students.

    “That’s 2,500 families that have learned fire prevention skills,” beyond the “Stop, Drop and Roll” concept, Hughes added. Northville Township Fire Department has also been generous in sharing this curriculum with other fire departments across the nation that want to start similar programs.

    “Northville Township Fire Department is saving lives,” said Klas. “They also are preventing injuries which is my goal. I don’t want people to have to come see us at the Trauma Burn Center.” Township officials and audience members gave the firefighters a standing ovation following the presentation.


    “I can’t express enough how proud we are of the Northville Township Fire Department,” said Supervisor Mark J. Abbo. “On behalf of the board of trustees, we thank the fire department so much for everything it does. What a great team you have.”