The Power of the Paw
Fire Safety Educator Partners with Lifesaving Canines
Firefighter Dayna Hilton kneeled down so she could hear five-year-old Angelica’s story. With eyes as round as saucers, the little girl recalled waking up to thick smoke pouring into her bedroom from a fire that was quickly engulfing her home. Angelica pushed the covers off and dropped to the floor, crawling low – just like Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog taught her at school.
As she wiggled across the floor, the five-year-old ran right into her father’s legs. The man was stumbling through the house, disoriented by the smoke and dangerous fumes. Five-year-old Angelica did not panic. She urged her father to get down on the floor with her and to crawl like Sparkles. Together, side by side, they safely escaped…
Helping those who need it most
Angelica learned fire safety training from a woman named Dayna Hilton, a second generation firefighter and certified Public Life Safety Educator. Hilton is the Executive Director of the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation (KKFSF). She and her team of Dalmatian dogs (Molly, Tango and Sparkles) are recognized around the world as leading fire safety educators.
“Our message has been shared with more than one million children,” said Hilton. “For 15 years we’ve used innovative teaching and technology to share our safety message – and now, that includes Skype and social networking.”
Ten years ago, more than 50% of all child fire deaths occurred to those aged four and younger (usfa.fema.gov).
This tragic statistic distressed Hilton and inspired her to establish KKFSF, a non-profit dedicated to teaching fire safety to children. What makes the foundation distinctive is the use of Dalmatian dogs to help deliver fire safety messages to students.
“From the beginning, my primary goal was to reduce fire deaths and injuries among those most at risk -- children,” Hilton said. “Children are attracted to dogs, and using Sparkles, Tango, and Molly as part of our presentation helps them remember what they have learned.”
Hilton calls this attraction, “the power of the paw.” In other words, the dogs’ furry, friendly demeanor keeps children engaged, which in turn, helps them absorb the information they’ve been given.
Innovative Fire Safety Programming
Molly the Fire Safety Dog’s Skype program, Learning about Fire Safety is Fun enables children to learn basic fire safety knowledge. The interactive 30-minute program is free to schools and other organizations throughout the world thanks to a grant from State Farm. The program features the Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog activity book, a safety demonstration by one of the Fire Safety Dogs that teaches skills such as crawling low under smoke, and other activities to engage the students.
According to Hilton, if you were to add the virtual miles the Fire Safety Dogs have traveled, it would equal the distance to the moon and back.
Lives Impacted Forever
Thanks to the fire safety training from Firefighter Dayna and Sparkles, Angelica is now a teenager. When fire broke out at her home on that fateful night…she and her family made it out just in time.
Firefighters on scene reported as soon as the two were whisked away to safety, the home “flashed over” – a term used to describe a home totally engulfed in flames.
These success stories continue to drive Hilton forward. To date, she is aware of eight children and four adults whose lives have been saved because of the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation efforts.
“Our vision is to make the world a safer place, one fire safety presentation at a time,” Hilton says.
And that is worth it all.
Skype with Molly for free!
Thanks to a grant from State Farm, schools and organizations can Skype with Firefighter Dayna and Molly the Fire Safety Dog at no cost. To learn more about this exciting opportunity, click HERE.
To learn more about the work of Molly the Fire Safety Dog and the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation, click HERE. Participating schools and organizations receive links to a free, downloadable copy of the Molly’s Fire Safety Skype Program Coloring eBook and bonus materials.