Spreading the Message: Fire safety program visits East View Elementary School

·2 min read

Nov. 23—In the 29 years that Jeff Owens has been traveling to schools across the U.S. to teach life and fire safety, his program has been credited with 17 confirmed "saves."

He suspects the number of children and their families who have been saved because of the program he brings to schools is higher.

"Even so, one is enough," he said. "Our goal was one when we started all of this."

Owens, creator of the Kasey Program, is a retired firefighter. Each year he travels to schools with his Labrador Retrievers to demonstrate safety skills. On Monday, Owens and his Labrador Retrievers, Kasey, Kali, and Karmel, visited East View Elementary School.

The Kasey Program incorporates the dogs in the lessons about how to "stop, drop and roll," how to check if a door is hot, how to crawl under smoke in a room, as well as other life skills. Other things Owens and the three dogs teach students is the importance of developing a family meeting place in the event of an emergency in which they would have to leave the home.

Owens also discussed smoke detectors and how they work.

"You need to ask you parents when the last time they had a new smoke detector put in, and when the batteries have been changed," Owens told the students. "If they can't remember, then it's been too long, and it's time they had them replaced."

Since 1998, the program has been sponsored by Koorsen Fire & Security, and today it teaches more than 400,000 children annually in more than 400 programs in the U.S. To date, the program has reached more than 8 million students.

The program for schools is geared toward students in preschool through sixth grade, but Owens said he also has a program for adults. He and the dogs can provide the life-saving lessons for individuals of all ages. The dogs also are trained in search and rescue, as well as being certified therapy dogs.

Part of the lesson Owens teaches students also involves how to approach strange dogs and "working" dogs.

LeVon Cozart, EVES school counselor, said the fact that the program is sponsored means Owens can offer it to the students at no charge, which is a plus.

She said this is the fourth year Owens and the dogs have visited students.

It's always important to teach students about fire safety, she said, but especially before the holidays, when students may be in households with lighted trees or overloaded power cords.

"It's always a great program," she said. "He speaks to the students in such a way they listen, and the dogs make it fun. They really leave the program with the knowledge, and that's the important thing."

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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