You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Partnering for Child Safety with a Pillowcase

User News Image
Catching children at an early age is one the most positive parts of the Pillowcase Project

Fire prevention and safety kicks into high gear as the temperatures drop in Western Massachusetts. The dangers presented by space heaters and overloaded electrical outlets increase as temperatures drop and residents try to stay warm.

Red Cross volunteers know the importance of fire safety. As a disaster response organization, the American Red Cross is in the local community everyday responding to fires or educating the public about the importance of fire and disaster safety.

Joined by three Springfield Fire Department inspectors, Red Cross volunteers Jane Robinson and Fran Griffin taught three 90-minute classes at Sumner Avenue School, a public elementary school in Springfield, Mass., stressing the importance of having a safety plan and practicing the plan with your family. It’s all about the Disney sponsored Pillowcase Project that aims to education the children of Massachusetts about the disaster safety.

From its humble beginnings ten years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, The Pillowcase Project not only teaches children the importance of preparedness before natural disasters, but also skills to cope with the changes that follow a life-changing event.

“In 2005, Red Cross volunteers in New Orleans watched as college students came into shelters carrying their important items inside a pillowcase,” Jane Robinson told the 4th graders in the Sumner Avenue School. “That gave the Red Cross an idea, to teach safety classes to children about the importance of preparedness,” said Robinson.

The American Red Cross partnered with the Disney Company to develop the teaching curriculum, a pillowcase with favorite Disney characters and video game called Monster Guard. Using these tools, Red Cross volunteers in Massachusetts and across the country are engaging children in grades three to five to teach them the importance of begin prepared for disasters.

According to Christian Lewis, an inspector with the Springfield Fire Department, catching children at an early age is one the most positive parts of the Pillowcase Project. Lewis emphasized the importance of reaching out to children at all stages of development, developing different messages for different age groups. Lewis said the ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ message works well with five and six year olds. As children get older, shifting the message to fire danger and what to do in fires fits well into the 8-11 year old age group.

As part of the program, trained Red Cross instructors teach federally mandated Common Core-certified material to 8-11 year olds. The safety, preparedness and coping skills lesson material is followed up with an art project where students design and personalize a pillowcase for use at home in case of an emergency.

Massachusetts volunteers will educate four thousand children across the state in FY16. Those children will start the conversation at home to encourage safety and preparedness for the entire family.