Could This Computer Game Save Your Kids From Fire?

How safe are your children if a fire breaks out?

While statistics from the United States Fire Administration show that fire is the third leading cause of unintentional injury in children under the age of 14, at least 40 per cent of all fire-related injuries involve children under the age of five. In 2007 alone, 52 per cent of all fire deaths were children under the age of four who are often too young to understand proper safety procedures when a residential fire happens.

Though fire prevention strategies for older children and adults have been relatively effective in reducing death or injury, programs to teach younger children about fire safety (such as "stop, drop, and roll" when clothes catch fire) have had mixed success. Educational programs designed to teach children about fire safety are already available. Unfortunately, they are often too expensive to use on a national scale and tend to focus on school age children instead of younger children who are more vulnerable.

Could an interactive computer game teach younger children about how to stay safe in a fire? An interactive computer game titled "The Great Escape" was developed by Winnipeg firefighter Shane Ferguson as part of the Staying Alive program. Ferguson had created the Staying Alive program and The Great Escape as a tribute to five-year old Laura Johnson. He had been one of first responders of the scene to discover her body after she died of smoke inhalation in a 1998 house fire.

Spurred by Laura's death to take action, Ferguson developed The Great Escape game with the financial support of the Winnipeg Fire Fighters Burn Fund and Cooperators Insurance Inc. Released on CD in both French and English, Staying Alive and The Great Escape have been widely praised and Shane Ferguson has received numerous awards for his fire safety efforts.

To read more, check out my new contribution at the Huffington Post.

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