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I’m one of those people who usually doesn’t know about all of the great things to do in NYC until somebody from out of town comes in and tells me. The Fire Zone is one of those places I really wish I’d known about when my kids were little – they would have loved it there!
For my last Kidde post I interviewed some firefighters who educate the public about fire safety, and I met them at The Fire Zone. It’s open to the public, and also hosts a lot of groups, especially school groups.
While I was there, many tourists came in. One, a paramedic from Germany, wanted to leave a patch from his station. The Fire Zone has what they believe is the largest patch collection in the world. It covers many different walls, and as I witnessed, firefighters and paramedics from all over the world like to stop in and add to it.
Some people also come in just to talk. One older gentleman was telling stories in the gift shop about going through firefighter training in NYC in the 1950s. At first I thought he worked there, but eventually I realized that he was another tourist. He’d retired out west, but liked to stop in to the Fire Zone every time he was in town. He’d drawn a crowd, and he was still answering questions when I left.
Kids who visit The Fire Zone can climb onto a realistic fire truck replica, try on gear, and learn safety tips from firefighters. There are also displays of all different kinds of firefighting and rescue equipment.
Admission to The Fire Zone is free, but there is a small cost to have a firefighter lead you through the state-of-the-art fire simulator, which teaches about fire safety through a combination of displays and projections. It’s recommended that kids be at least five years old for the presentation. Completely harmless fake smoke is used, and there are loud noises.
There’s a large garage-type door that starts out closed, as the room behind it fills with fake smoke. As the door opens, the fake smoke pours out, and you walk into the room. The fake smoke isn’t as dense as in a training simulation, but it gives kids an idea of how hard it can be to see in a fire.
There are all sorts of displays of things that were burned in fires (they weren’t really, but they’re really well done and the educators like to make the kids think they were).
Different stories can be projected up on the wall, and the educators will quiz participants on fire safety tips, like how to tell if a door is safe to go through. I know as a kid (heck, even as an adult) I get the point better when I’m shown something, rather than just being told.
Here are some safety tips you can practice with your own family:
-Make sure you have an escape plan, including two ways out of every room
-Check doors with the back of your hand to see if they’re hot (do not check the doorknobs, because they may not conduct heat)
-Stay low: crawling can help you avoid the thickest smoke, since smoke rises
-Practice Stop, Drop, and Roll: if your clothes catch fire, roll on the ground until the fire goes out
-Have a meeting place outside so that you can tell who is safe and who is still inside
Of course, not everyone can make it to NYC and go to The Fire Zone, so I asked some of the firefighters who work there if it’s OK to stop by a local fire station, maybe bring them some cookies. (Just me? I like to bring cookies when I drop by somewhere.) And while they don’t speak for all fire departments, their attitude was yes, it’s absolutely fine to stop by.
Lt. Frank Minetta said it’s not necessary to bring cookies (because his wife wants him to get his boyish figure back!), but you should absolutely stop by. “I think everybody in the firehouse will appreciate that. There are times when there are scheduled events that will maybe not make it a good time, but then you just come back another time. But it’s good to get children involved, get adults involved. The community should always feel free to engage the firefighters at the station, without a doubt.”
Firefighter Chuck Kotov added, “During our presentation, we tell people that if they have a question after they leave here, they should stop by their local fire department and ask. If they’re busy, they’ll tell you to come back.”
I’d highly recommend a stop into The Fire Zone with your kids. It’s in Rockefeller Center, so there is plenty to do in that area. And it’s open seven days a week!
You can find information about the fire simulator, hours, and more on the FDNY Smart website. You can get more information about fire safety on the Kidde website, and by following Kidde on its social channels: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.