Chelsea Firefighter Receives Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Award at 23rd Annual Fire & Life Safety Education Conference
The 23rd annual Massachusetts Public Fire and Life Safety Education Conference took place September 26-27, 2017 at the Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center. This year’s theme Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety for All Ages recognizes the need to keep every member of our community safe from fire at every stage of life. Massachusetts has strong fire education programs for seniors and school-age children, but people between the ages of 18 and 65 also need good fire safety information.
Over 200 firefighter-educators, classroom teachers, elder service workers and injury prevention professionals gathered for workshops on teaching fire, life safety and injury prevention to all segments of the community, from pre-school children to senior citizens.
Peter Mitchell - Finding Ways to Make Fire Safety Fun, Easy & Relevant for Adults
Peter Mitchell, a behavior change marketing executive, presented the keynote address Finding Ways to Make Fire Safety Fun, Easy and Relevant for Adults, tying his experience with anti-tobacco marketing campaigns to fire safety behavior changes fire educators would like see. As Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of SalterMitchell, Peter Mitchell has experience creating media messages that can effectively change behaviors.
Helping First Responders Understand Hoarding Disorder
Patty Underwood, a clinical social worker who facilitates groups and provides therapy for people with mental health challenges, presented a morning general session on Helping First Responders Understand Hoarding Disorder. People who suffer from this disorder have a huge fire risk and helping them reduce that risk is a huge challenge for fire educators. Underwood spoke about the underlying causes of hoarding, the criteria for diagnosis and the most helpful ways to communicate with someone who struggles with this problem, and what resources are available to help this population. It is important for first responders to know that how they interact with people who suffer from hoarding disorder can determine how receptive they are to help forever. It can be a make or break encounter.
2017 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Award
The 2017 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Award was presented on September 27 to Chelsea FF Omar Frometa, a bi-lingual fire educator who has inspired fellow firefighters to join his programs for seniors, and school children from kindergarten to high school including special needs children. The other nominees recognized for their efforts were: Lincoln Fire Lt. Benjamin Juhola, Duxbury FF Harry Matthews, Wilmington Fire Lt. William Cavanaugh, Cohasset Capt. Robert Forde, and Townsend FF Jeffrey Cormier.
About the 2017 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year
Chelsea Firefighter Omar Frometa
FF Omar Frometa is a dedicated, passionate advocate for fire and life safety. He is an engaging communicator and brings an organized, thoughtful, flexible approach to his education programs. Ten years ago, FF Omar began volunteering in classrooms, teaching fire and life safety to his own children and their classmates. Soon he was being invited into other classrooms. When word reached the fire department about his efforts, he was given the position of lead Public Safety Educator and the town began applying for and using Senior SAFE and S.A.F.E. grants to support his work. The S.A.F.E. program in Chelsea has grown from one classroom to every classroom in the city, from pre-K to high school. Thousands of students have learned about fire and life safety from FF Omar and a growing team of Chelsea firefighter educators. FF Omar’s reach is extensive and every so often a young child calls 911 on behalf of an adult, and then reports that it was FF Omar who taught them when and how to make the call. FF Omar is a creative educator. He uses appropriate props and programs to reach his audiences including Touch a Fire Truck, the Smoke House, and even using the jaws-of-life to educate high school students. He has built a strong partnership between the Chelsea school system and the fire department. The respect and trust between these agencies is a testament to his strength and devotion to fire and life safety programs and to the people of Chelsea. FF Omar has also established great relationships with facilities for the elderly and many other city organizations. His leadership has helped the S.A.F.E. and Senior SAFE programs to grow quickly and effectively as he teaches other firefighters all that he knows about connecting with the community. FF Omar’s ten year journey as a fire and life safety educator began with his own family and has extended to his professional family - the entire city of Chelsea. He has made this diverse community measurably safer with his dedication and passion for fire and life safety education.
About the Outstanding Nominees
Captain Robert Forde, Cohasset Fire Department
Captain Robert Forde runs the Cohasset Cares program to assist elders. The program provides seniors with a variety of services including education and awareness about fire and fall prevention. The program includes home safety evaluations and can supply participants with CO and smoke alarms, bathmats, flashlights and more free of charge. The Cohasset Fire Department and Cohasset Elder Affairs have developed a wonderful working relationship over the years and Captain Forde has helped both the Cohasset Cares program and the strong cooperative relationship to grow. Forde has helped local seniors overcome their reluctance to allow fire personnel into their homes to make this program work. With the help of Elder Affairs, he has won the trust of Cohasset seniors and helped to make this a safer community for all Cohasset elders.
FF Harry Mathews, Duxbury Fire Department
FF Harry Mathews has run fire and life safety education programs in Duxbury for 10 years. He is selfless and dedicated to the work of keeping his community safe. In addition to outstanding work with the S.A.F.E. program, he participates in Duxbury FACTS, a coalition of volunteers that address youth health and wellness. Mathews is also an outstanding paramedic and an accomplished trainer in paramedicine. Under FF Mathew’s leadership, the Duxbury S.A.F.E. program brought significant behavior change to students. In the years leading up to 2006, juvenile firesetting in and outside schools was a troubling issue. When the fire chief asked for someone to lead an educational program to combat juvenile firesetting, FF Mathews stepped up. He started the program and has built it up and kept it strong. Results have been stellar. The last intentionally set fire by a student in Duxbury was in 2009. Duxbury currently enjoys several strong partnerships that Harry has nurtured over the years. The school, police, elder affairs and other town departments all collaborate with the fire department to bring fire and life safety to many residents through the Senior SAFE program, the DARE program, the summer Junior Police Academy and an annual Fire Prevention Week celebration. Fire Prevention Week culminates in an open house at the fire department that is attended by thousands, during which FF Mathews engages children with a coloring contest based on fire safety messages. Winners are awarded a ride to school in a fire truck! FF Mathew’s leadership is notable. He has the support of his peers for safety programs and is always coming up with new ideas for community engagement. He works diligently to keep programs funded through the S.A.F.E. and Senior SAFE grants and also through fundraising with groups and individuals. Harry is an exemplary force for fire and life safety in Duxbury.
Lieutenant Benjamin Juhola, Lincoln Fire Department
For ten years, Lt. Juhola has devoted himself to building, growing and nurturing a dynamic S.A.F.E. program in Lincoln. He worked diligently to strengthen the relationship between the fire department and the public and private schools. He has expanded into educating seniors through the Senior SAFE program, developing strong collaboration with the Lincoln Council on Aging. FF Juhola includes the Council on Aging and the school administration in spreading and administering the programs, making sure that all agencies are equally invested. FF Juhola’s ability to listen, incorporate feedback and make school and Council on Aging staff an integral part of the S.A.F.E. and Senior SAFE programs means that Lincoln has a strong and lasting program for school children and for seniors. FF Juhola uses his enthusiasm and confidence to encourage other firefighters to become educators. He is a strong leader, making his expectations clear but also supporting and promoting independence among those who work with him. FF Juhola’s leadership and perseverance has paid off for Lincoln. His passion for fire and life safety education is an asset to Lincoln and his steadfast commitment and attention to these programs has made the town safer for all.
FF Jeffrey Cormier, Townsend Fire Department
FF Cormier is an outstanding leader advocating for fire and life safety in Townsend. He writes grants and runs the S.A.F.E. and Senior SAFE programs in schools and with seniors and finds creative ways to engage both audiences. His innovations include running ice cream and breakfast socials, poster contests and more. He connects easily with both children and seniors, reaching them with his enthusiasm and dedication to the mission of community safety. FF Cormier has taught hundreds of people fire and life safety in the eight years he has been a S.A.F.E. educator. He became the lead S.A.F.E. instructor and coordinator for Townsend in 2012. FF Cormier has worked hard to build partnerships that promote safety for Townsend residents. He partners with the library and senior center to run an annual fire and life safety and CPR training. He has built strong partnerships with the schools in order to deliver safety messages to Townsend students. FF Cormier has made a huge difference to the safety of Townsend residents.
Lieutenant William Cavanaugh, Wilmington Fire Department
Lt. Cavanaugh is a dedicated fire and life safety educator for all ages. Due to his energy and creativity, his older adult program has blossomed. His partnership with the Department of Elder Affairs has been instrumental in delivering high quality education for seniors. A Senior SAFE grant allows Cavanaugh and the Director of Elder Affairs to deliver safety programs several times each year. They learned that elders wanted more safety information and so Cavanaugh arranged a collaboration between the Department of Elder Affairs, the fire department and the Red Cross to install (or replace) smoke and CO alarms in the homes of elders. During installations, teams also check for other safety issues. Cavanaugh handles safety concerns from clutter to electrical hazards with delicacy and ease so that elders respond and make the changes he suggests. Lt. Cavanaugh was also instrumental in winning a “Remembering When” fire and fall prevention grant for the town. His leadership has made the program a tremendous success. Thirty-two elders completed the program and the town is running a second session this fall. Cavanaugh also brings the S.A.F.E. program to the Wilmington public schools. He teaches in classrooms and brings the fire safety trailer to town for Fire Prevention Week. His leadership, teamwork and compassion for all citizens and his passion for education and safety make him a remarkable asset for the residents of Wilmington.