Stop, Drop & Learn: Kasey Program’s Dogs Teach Kids About Fire Safety
Firefighter Jeff Owens doesn’t let a little thing like retirement slow him down. With the Kasey Program, Owens and his pack of black Labs tour schools to teach kids about fire safety.
We all know that kids learn by example, but how cool is it when the example being set is by a big old black lab dog? While we’ve always known this gentle breed is a pretty quick study when it comes to learning the service dogs ropes, I never thought this furry student would do so well when it came time for him to be the teacher.
Apparently retired Indiana firefighter Jeff Owens sure did and he started the Kasey Program 20 years ago using his own black labs to teach schools kids about fire safety. The original Kasey has since passed, but bringing up the rear are look-alike stand-ins KD (the senior of the pack), 4-year-old Kohl, and 14-week-old Kali – who will replace the soon-to-retire KD.
Owens acknowledges most schools have fire safety programs in place, but I think the kids in Indiana get to learn in a much more fun way with his pooches providing up close and personal demonstrations on how to check a door to see if it’s hot, how to crawl below smoke, and how to stop, drop and roll.
When it’s time for the classroom-style lessons about what to do when you find lighters and matches, how to make sure you know two exits out of your home, or the importance of having a meeting place for family members who have had to flee a fire, the pooches let Owens step in and finish the training. And what better way to make sure the message sticks that with a catch song (talk about talent – Owens sings and plays guitar!).
The program to date is credited with having taught more than 400,000 elementary school kids in the Indianapolis area and with having saved at least 15 lives. With area titles of 2014 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year and most recently 2015 Health Care Hero’s for Children under their belt (and collars!), Owens plans to roll the program out nation-wide and will soon hit the road with his team of trainers.
Speaking from past experience, Owens says: “I can prevent a firefighter from having to pull a child out. I know how traumatizing it is to the firefighters; let alone the trauma sustained by the families. So that’s what drives me to go out and teach as much as I do”. So armed with years of personal experience, a desire to help, and a tin full of treats, Owens and his trio go forth and do good.
If you want to see where the Kasey Program crew is heading in the near future, or to book them for your school, be sure to check out their schedule of events.
Mary Simpson is an animal-loving writer and communications professional. A soft touch for anything stray, she shares her century home with an eclectic collection of rescues that include orange tabby Chico, tuxedo Simon, and jet black Owen. She enjoys running, politics, exploring local wine regions and is an avid supporter of the “shop local” movement.