YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

FOR THE KIDS : Family Safety Can Be Fun and Games : A firefighter's musical presentation is a lighthearted way to prepare children for earthquakes, fires and other emergencies.


How do you teach kids about earthquakes without scaring them to death?

If you're firefighter Jim Swing, you belt out a little ditty to the tune of an old Bill Haley and the Comets classic.

It goes something like: When it shakes, rattles and rolls, You got to duck, cover and hold. Then he might top it off with "The Rumble Bumble Boogie Woogie Shakey Quakey Rhythm and Blues."

"It gets rid of the earthquake jitters," said Swing, who lives in Moorpark. "It helps kids to make light of the shaking."

The touch may be light, but the message is serious in the two-hour class Swing teaches for kids and parents through the Moorpark Community Services Department. The class meets Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Swing--what better name for a guy who once played with country rock bands--is a Torrance firefighter and paramedic. He formed the South Bay Firefighters Band four years ago after he was named the department's education officer.

The four-member band has been teaching fire safety through music shows to schoolchildren in the Los Angeles area ever since. In Moorpark this weekend, he'll be a solo act and his repertoire will be all-around safety--fire, earthquake and first aid.

He starts by showing the children a 20-minute video about the firehouse, based on "Sesame Street" characters. Meanwhile, he talks to the parents about lifesaving techniques--how to do the Heimlich maneuver on children and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"I don't get into CPR, but I recommend that everyone take that," said Swing, 45, and the father of two small children.

After the video, he shows the kids some of his equipment, such as his helmet and breathing mask. That way they'll know what a suited-up fireman looks like and won't be frightened in a real emergency.

Then he brings out his guitar. Some of the songs are written by Swing, others are from different firefighting organizations. There is the song "Two Ways Out," about exiting during a fire; "Cool Water," about first aid for burns, and the rap song "Hunt for Home Hazards."

During the class, Swing also plays games with the kids. "We try to make it a little fun," he said. He gets the parents to hold a blanket about two feet off the floor as if it were a blanket of smoke. Then he shows the children how to scrunch down low and crawl under the blanket, as they should in a real fire.

He also preaches the stop-drop-and-roll message by sticking a piece of felt in the shape of a flame on them, and then having them roll on the floor to knock it off. Even though it's fun, the children seem to retain the safety information, he said.

For many children, earthquakes are terrifyingly real. "I tell them it's something natural, like rain or the wind blowing," he said. "It's just the earth settling down. Not a lot of people are hurt by it."

He gives them some quake tips: Get under a table, hold on with one hand and cover your head with the other hand. "Move with the furniture," he tells them.

Giving them some practical tips helps parents and children psychologically, he said. "They have some control--there is something they can do."

The songs and games open a dialogue between parent and child on the subject of safety. "Some kids are anxious about this, and a lot of them hold that stuff inside."

The class also is good for parents, he said. It gets them thinking more about safety.


* WHAT: "Mommy (or Daddy) and Me and Fireman Jim," family class on safety.

* WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon.

* WHERE: Moorpark's new Arroyo Vista Recreation Center, at Tierra Rejada Road and Countrywood Drive.

* HOW MUCH: $10 per family

* FYI: Pre-registration is required at the center or at 799 Moorpark Ave. Children should be 3 years and older. For more information, call 529-6864, Ext. 231.

Los Angeles Times Articles