Children get hands-on safety lessons |

Children get hands-on safety lessons

Gary E. Salazar

— Thirty-five children attending a summer camp Wednesday got the first tours of a new educational tool for the Steamboat Springs police and fire departments.

Public safety officials set up “Safety Village” in Torian Plum Plaza Wednesday morning. The village consists of miniature traffic signs on roads marked in chalk between wooden buildings.

Volunteer firefighter Jeanne Power led groups of children from Kids Adventure Club on small scooters through the village, teaching the children bike and pedestrian safety along the way. Also included in Power’s presentation was the importance of children wearing helmets when riding bicycles.

Other volunteers gave presentations about railroad crossings, computer safety, kitchen safety, gun safety, making 911 calls and dealing with strangers.

And there was information on escape plans, smoke detectors and crawling under smoke from the fire department.

Johanna Hall, who is a supervisor for the summer camp, came away impressed with the village created by the public safety departments.

“The kids are really into it,” Hall said. “The messages they are hearing are important, and they are hearing it from the police and fire departments.”

The village “is a hands-on experience,” she said. “They not only hear about safety, but experience it through the village.”

The idea to create the village came from Shawn Zwak, a volunteer firefighter. Last fall, Zwak attended a training session where he was introduced to the safety village concept.

“The village is a great tool to put all these safety aspects together in one program,” he said.

To create the village, Zwak was given $4,000 from the city and was able to get an additional $26,000 from grants.

Also helping the two departments with the project is the Yampa Valley Injury Coalition.

Fire Chief Bob Struble watched the children, who ranged in age from 3 to 9, go through the village.

“This program is going to grow and is a phenomenal teaching tool for all types of safety,” Struble said. “Hopefully, we will get all the kids in Steamboat through it.”

To ensure public safety officials can reach as many kids as possible with the program, the village can be moved to different sites.

“There are permanent villages,” Zwak said. “But we did not want to go with a permanent one. We wanted something we could travel around the county with to reach kids in different places.”

Next Wednesday, the village will be set up at Howelsen Hill and children enrolled in Steamboat Springs recreation activities will have their chance to go through the village.

“Hopefully, we can set up the village a couple more times before the summer ends,” Zwak said.

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