Kids lead the way on behavior change
"Dad, where is our fire extinguisher?" my 7-year-old asked as she burst through the door after school.
"Under the kitchen sink," I said.
"Is it still good?” she asked. “The firefighters told me to check as soon as I got home."
We looked at the extinguisher and confirmed it was functional and up-to-date.
An hour later, in the middle of dinner, "Dad we need to practice our fire escape plan. Right now. The firefighter told us to practice the plan tonight at dinner. What is our escape plan?"
As instructed ─ because who can put off a child that wants to prepare for an emergency ─ we pushed away from the table, leaving our meal half-eaten, and drilled our home fire escape plan. The firefighters, highly respected by my children, empowered my son and daughter with a specific call to action to practice a behavior.
My kids repeat this routine – fire extinguisher, smoke detector, and fire escape plan – every October after the firefighters visit their school. The firefighters give the kids knowledge and a script to use at home saying something like, "When you get home tonight – first thing – ask your parents where the fire extinguishers is kept." The kids dutifully follow the instructions and as a family we have a great fire safety review.
EMS, police, and fire can change distracted driving behavior
EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, please engage the children that come to your stations and tour your ambulances, cruisers, and fire apparatus. Lead the campaign to change the dangerous behavior of driving while distracted.Add a few minutes during every tour or classroom visit to discuss the dangers of distracted driving. Ask the kids, "Does your mom ever send or read text messages while driving you to school?" or "Does your dad talk on the phone on the way to soccer practice?"
I suspect many of the kids will answer yes and with minimal prodding tell a near-miss story or an actual collision they were involved in to you and their classmates. Kids love telling stories.
Next, equip the kids to change behavior in the vehicles they ride in. Something simple will do. I know kids will be glad to help you, their role models and heroes, make the roads safer.
"Mom, we both know that our risk of crashing goes up if you are texting. The paramedics said you should put down your phone, focus on driving, and ask me about my day at school."
"Dad, we both know distracted driving is dangerous. The EMTs told me you should move your phone out of reach as we drive to soccer practice."
My script to stop distracted driving
I have a script that I have used on paramedic partners driving the ambulance, taxi drivers, bus drivers, and friends and family. My script is simple and well-rehearsed, "Please put down your phone. I have two young children at home. They need me to get home today. I will do the same for you – not look at or use my phone – while I am driving. Thanks for putting down your phone."
I use something similar when an EMS chief calls me while driving their department issued vehicle. "Chief I am glad to talk, but for the safety of you and those around you let's reschedule for a time you are not driving. When can I call you back?"
Give the kids the script and an assignment
My script works – one vehicle and one driver at a time. As an emergency responder you have the opportunity to exponentially multiply the number of people, especially children, using a script to change driving behavior, in turn making the roads safer for you and the communities you serve.