As the Building Engineer for Focus on the Family, I saw something in 1997 that revealed a changing paradigm. One of my responsibilities was the fire alarm and suppression systems and related evacuation plans and emergency procedures.
In 1996, we finished the new Welcome Center facility; a building designed and operated specifically for visitors. By 1997 it was time to conduct a fire drill there. I intentionally chose a day full of visitors to observe visitor dynamics. With the building loaded with hundreds of visitors in awe, it was time to set off the alarms and watch the dynamics.
Of the lessons we learned, one remains prevalent. On that day, there was a large group of home-schooled children in the facility.
They had never heard a fire alarm. Those kids had no idea what that awful sound was.
There has been a substantial increase in home schooling since, exploding since Covid. Over 1/3 of home schoolers interviewed by the US Dept of Education took their children out of the public school system due to concerns about the environment, including safety and security[i]. Yet just removing those kids from public school does not protect them in life. All those dangers are still there when they do go out into the world.
I am a real supporter of, and believer in, home schooling. But those children need to know about the wolf too. I can’t imagine not speaking to my children (or grandchildren) of such things, but the reality is that it just isn’t on a lot of people’s minds until something happens.
The frequent (and often only) mass gathering venue for those home-schooled kids is their church. Our churches can have a role in increasing the awareness of our youth.
Not just for fire. I believe we should teach more violence readiness than fire readiness for our youth.
Think About it
Youth programs are designed to point youth towards becoming responsible adults. Is it too much to ask that one youth service a year be devoted to helping them be safe? One out of 52 weekly lesson topics doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.
This is another opportunity to work with law-enforcement. I doubt there is an agency out there who wouldn’t address your youth group one night a year on the topic of not being a victim
[i] Education Week; Article by researcher, Michael McShane, “Lessons From a Homeschooling Researcher: What You Should Know Now”