A 35-minute-long play presented by the Salt Lake County Fire Department has taught more than 65,000 county grade school children fire and traffic safety and how to battle peer pressure.
Fire department educational specialist Jay Miles said his troupe of players went to 76 schools in the Granite and Jordan school districts from Oct. 1 through Wednesday, Nov. 21.Play participants included Miles, who acted and played the trombone and base guitar; volunteer Michelle Harvey, a professional singer with the Utah Opera Company who wrote the words and music for the play, acted, played the electronic keyboard and directed the players; and Jack Homen, a firefighter-paramedic who acted and played the guitar.
Other players were Salt Lake County firefighters Brad Tillotson and Brian Hansen and West Jordan firefighter Burt Romrell.
Miles said the play was presented to students from kindergarten through the sixth grade on the average of three times a day "and sometimes as many as five times a day."
He said the production introduced firefighters and paramedics to the students and presented a variety of ways to say "no" to peer pressure that could lead students into trouble. It also taught safety in the streets, promoted fire prevention and fire safety, taught the emergency 911 number and the basic fire escape behavior - stop, drop and roll.
The play also advocated the use of smoke detectors, taught the youths how to design a home fire escape plan, how to be more self-reliant and how to have a more positive attitude, Miles said.
This is the fifth year Miles has taught fire prevention and safety in the schools and the fourth year he has presented a fire safety play. This is the third year Harvey has written and participated in the fire department's play, Miles said.
Recently, Harvey was honored by President George Bush who invited her to the White House for dinner and awarded her the National Presidential Volunteer Award for her community service. She has also been honored by Salt Lake County.
Until Christmas, Miles and a group of firefighter players will present a variety of fire prevention and fire safety programs at 17 senior citizen centers in Salt Lake County.
Early next year, Miles will begin visiting junior high schools and throughout February he and other county firefighters will present programs in 76 kindergartens. From March through May, he will visit fifth graders and high schools. Andduring the summer he and others will present community fire safety programs and appear in parades throughout the county.
"I'm gratified every time I hear of an incident in which a youth prevented a fire or kept it from getting worse by using the skills we teach in our plays and presentations," Miles said.
"Teachers tell me all the time that our programs are working. That makes everyone connected with our education programs happy."