Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy 60th Birthday, Sparky the Fire Dog®!

As a children's author, my goal is to write books that will help kids learn and grow, and I've always been a big believer in using animals to help kids relate to important and sometimes difficult situations.

So when I was approached by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to write a book in celebration of the 60th birthday of Sparky the Fire Dog®, I could not have been more honored and excited. As the NFPA's official mascot and spokesdog, Sparky has long played an important role in communicating fire safety to kids and families.

Since Sparky's creation in 1951, the number of fire and fires injuries in the United States has declined, which is due in part to enhanced public education efforts. But despite this positive impact, fires in the home still take a great toll on life and property. Approximately 3,000 people die each year because of fires.

Working on the Sparky the Fire Dog® picture book was a particularly special experience for me because I've had first-hand experience with fire. When I was 5, my house caught on fire and while my parents escaped, they weren't able to get to my room to guide me to safety. I was lucky to be rescued by a firefighter.

This is no doubt a scary memory for me, but it's also a reminder of the importance of instilling fire safety messages in children. Sparky is crucial because children under the age of five face the highest risk of home fire death. While fire can be frightening to children, the kind and gentle image of this dalmatian emphasizes positive fire safety messages in a way that is appealing to children.

In Sparky the Fire Dog®, Sparky takes a group of young animals through the neighborhood, pointing out hazards, giving basic fire prevention and safety tips, and showing them how to be prepared in case of an emergency. From having a working smoke alarm to being careful with candles and knowing where your exits are, Sparky's advice may be the most important thing children--and their parents--ever learn.

I very much hope that adults will benefit from the book as much as children. We all remember learning fire safety lessons from firefighters or Sparky when we were in school, but many of us may not have carried all of the crucial fire safety practices we once learned in our day-to-day lives as adults.

The release of Sparky the Fire Dog® coincides with Fire Prevention Week (October 9-15)--an annual public awareness campaign sponsored by the NFPA that focuses on the small actions that can make a big difference in protecting your family from fire. These actions include creating a home escape plan, installing and checking home smoke alarms, and installing home fire sprinkers.

Sparky has done such amazing work over the las 60 years, and I hope that the book will help the NFPA continue to spread the important messages of fire safety far and wide.

Anyone interested in learning or teaching about fire safety can learn more at the Fire Prevention Week website which contains more safety tips and statistical information.

This post by Don Hoffman, author of Sparky the Fire Dog®.

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