The Great Inflation

When I took my first Econ 50 class as a freshman in college, I struggled greatly. I was scared off because it didn’t make sense to me. The real world didn’t reflect the “laws” that I was taught. A couple of years later I tried again, adding economics to my dual major mostly because my father made me. I didn’t want to graduate in 3 years and said I had to add economics to my degree for him to pay for me to stay my fourth year. So I completed the requirements for Economics to be added to my International Relations major as a dual in one year. It was crazy hard, but it multiplied my understanding of the world. Once I learned to approach economics like a social science instead of a hard science like math, everything clicked.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that money supply causes inflation, yet our increased money supply has been accompanied by low inflation now and low projected inflation.


source: tradingeconomics.com

Now listen to this podcast. This is why I wish Behavioral Economics was around when I was in college!

Update: Response from Fremont Fire Department

Two weeks ago I posted my letter to the Fremont Fire Department, and much to their credit, they are responsive to my complaint. The next day, I did receive the following email response:

Dear Ms. Shen,

Thank you for contacting me to express your displeasure with your recent experiences involving our Department and the Empire Montessori Preschool. I was saddened to learn of your disappointment because our relationship with the community we serve is of paramount importance to us. Please be assured that we will look into this matter fully and immediately. To that end, I spoke to Deputy Chief Jim Martin who heads our Operations Division first thing this morning and tasked him with reviewing the matter. The Fremont Fire Department is committed to strong community partnerships and fire safety education and we take that role very serious. Please allow Chief Martin a few days to conduct his review and in the meantime, if you would like to speak with him directly please feel free to contact him at:

Deputy Chief Jim Martin
510-494-4202
jmartin@fremont.gov

Again, thank you for taking the time to communicate with us.

Sincerely,

Geoff LaTendresse, Fire Chief
Fremont Fire Department

A few days later, I did receive a call from Deputy Jim Martin who explained to me their policy. Deputy Martin did acknowledge that the new fire captain should have suited up and felt that there was a miscommunication when coordinating with the preschool director. However, he was quite firm about the fire department policy about not presenting to children under age 5 due to lack of resources.

Deputy Martin indicated that while the Fremont Fire Department would not do presentation for children under age of 5, parents can take their children individually to fire stations. When I asked if the fire fighter might suit up and show the kids his gear, Deputy Martin said he is not sure. I let him know that I am keen on teaching kids fire safety myself but the one thing that I cannot do as a parent is to suit up in fire gear and show kids not to be scared of that in a fire. To that Deputy Martin said that he might try to pass along the idea of an open house event in the future.

In response to our conversation, I sent the following final email to sum up our conversation:

Hello Deputy Chief Jim Martin,

Thank you for having taken the time and effort to have an in-depth conversation today over the phone. I appreciated your thoroughness in investigating the incident that I complained about in my previous letter, and I also greatly appreciated the good conversation we had. I learned a good deal about the realities that the Fremont Fire Department faces. It was enlightening and I am glad I had the opportunity to learn as a Fremont citizen.Thank you also for sharing with me about the Learn Not to Burn program — I looked it up and the website had some good information worthy of sharing!

While I understand that there is no education department within Fremont Fire Department, I would like to share a few statistics that I have learned about in children age 0-5 and fire safety:

According to FEMA studies released in 2011, children ages 0-5 have the highest fire death rates among children of all ages and have the highest relative risk of dying in a fire when compared to older children. Children account for 15% of all fire deaths; children younger than 5 made up 52% of fire deaths among those 16 and younger. Fire and burns were the third-leading cause of accidental deaths, after transportation accidents and drowning, for children younger than 15 in 2007.

“U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) encourages parents to teach children at an early age about the dangers of fireplay in an effort to prevent child injuries, fire deaths and firesetting behavior in the future.”
Children ages 0-14 and under make up 15% of all fire deaths.1
Fifty-four percent of all child fire deaths occur to those under age 5.1 These children are usually unable to escape from a fire independently.
http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/parents/curious.shtm

Researchers found that deaths among the youngest of children increased 2% from 2004 to 2007…
What’s most distressing, says Mark Shriver, chairman of the National Commission on Children and Disaster, is that “we’re trending upward. … It’s not getting better.”
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-02-14-kidsinfire14_ST_N.htm

Little kids can’t get out by themselves — they need to be rescued. This is why it is important for children to learn to trust and not be afraid of first responders at an early age. This is why I thought that having the children see the full fire suit would help them learn not to be afraid of a guy in a mask with an axe when they need to be rescued — that is something that I as a parent cannot do on my own.

http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/116195569.html

I am not sure what process the department goes through in consideration of the internal policies, but I hope that education can become a greater priority in the department’s interaction with the community public. At the very least, I hope that Fremont Fire Department can work on providing more information and education to the public creatively that will target those under age of 5. Fire Station Open Houses, information and lessons provided via the website, and education targeting parents and teachers of young children can all contribute. Mr. Martin has indicated that experience has taught the department that teaching kids under age 5 is not effective compared to teaching children 5 and older. It is true that children under age of 5 has shorter attention span and greater need of repetition, and if the Fire Department does not have the priority and the resources to provide the education directly, then parents and teachers need to be given the tools as much as possible. I noticed in the Events section there is a Personal Emergency Preparedness class in October — perhaps similar events for children can be made available?

I am looking forward to getting more information on the text of the internal policy on public relations activities as it applies to children and any available educational resources to disseminate to other parents of preschoolers that I know in Fremont. October, Fire Prevention Month, will be right around the corner!

Sincerely,

Irene Shen

Deputy Jim Martin sent the following response:

Irene,

It was good speaking to you yesterday as well. As the Chief mentioned, we are committed to strong community relationships and public education. I have included a couple of Fire Safety links that you can share that may be helpful for you to share with all ages. Input like yours is appreciated, and evaluation of our current internal guideline on Public Relations Activities (PRA’s) will surely be reviewed. We are always striving to look at and consider new ideas and improved methods, while remaining within our budgetary constraints. With that being said, I have already had a conversation with our Assistant Fire Marshall on the issues you raised. Additionally, the Fire Prevention Division has several very good educational Fire Safety videos that can be loaned to the public. Please let me know if you have an interest in obtaining any of these. The Asst. Fire Marshall had suggested the NFPA website below, and also wanted me to relay that we are already considering educational improvements to our website.

City Website:
http://www.fremont.gov/index.aspx?NID=100

National Fire Protection Association:
http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/safety-tip-sheets

Here is an excerpt of guidelines we have in place for Fire Station Tours.

“In addition to showing the kids the different apparatus that we use, try to insert a few safety
tips as well. Put one child in the seat and buckle them in. Talk about seat belt safety and
emphasize that even firefighters always wear their seatbelts.

When showing them our turnout gear, use the helmet as a prop to discuss the subject of
bicycle helmets and how important they are. However, do not put the helmet on a child’s
head as their neck may not be strong enough to support the added weight of a helmet
without injury.

Put on your turnout gear, including the S.C.B.A. and mask. This is especially important with
younger children, as the clothing and sounds may frighten them. Explain that this is what
we’ll look and sound like if we ever come to rescue them in a fire, and that they shouldn’t
be scared.”

Our guidelines for PRA’s currently are used by the Administrative Assistant who handles the PRA’s, and does not live within a policy. It is used as a guideline so that PRA’s are handled with consistency, and are effectively communicated to the field personnel that then are assigned and responsible for the presentation. Some of the guidelines followed that I relayed in our conversation are:

1. No Children under Kindergarten Age
2. 2-3 weeks advance notice
3. No more than 30 children
4. No Cost
5. Receptionist may schedule up to 3 activities per month per shift and station

I hope that this information is helpful, and can ultimately be a benefit to the children and citizens here in Fremont. Thank you again for your input.

Sincerely,

Jim

Jim Martin
Deputy Fire Chief, Operations
Fremont Fire Department

In sum, I did learn a lot about the resources or lack thereof in my new city, and a whole lot about safety. I know that as a parent I took the availability of fire safety presentations for children by fire departments for granted, and that it is increasingly unavailable in many municipalities. As parents, we must take proactive steps to teach children what to do in an emergency, much as we take proactive steps to buy life insurance, write a living will, or even install a car seat.

While I am disappointed that Fremont Fire Department could not do more for our most at risk children, I am glad that they have at least taken the time to hear me out. Hopefully, other parents in Fremont might find this something worth voicing their opinions about as well.

My Correspondence with Fremont Police Department over Child Safety Education

On July 16th, I kicked off a series of emails with the Fremont Police Department’s Community Engagement when I attempted to help my preschool get the kids a few child safety presentations from Fremont Police Department and Fremont Fire Department. I was surprised by how difficult this exercise turned out to be. I have still yet to obtain any results yet but I will not be giving up yet. At the very least I hope to understand why it is not possible.

Here are the emails that went back and forth:

July 16, 2013:

Hello,

I was wondering if the Fremont Police Department might be able to find time and visit some preschoolers and do a small presentation? My son attends Empire Montessori Preschool and I am looking to arrange for a school visit — I know this would make so many kids there very happy! I know that the school director would love this for the kids.

Please contact me and let me know how we might arrange this.

Thank you,

Irene

——-

Hi Irene,

We only do school visits for elementary school age children.  We just don’t have the staffing resources to accommodate all of the preschools in town.

Sincerely,
Geneva

——

Hi Geneva,

I am not asking for you to visit all the preschools in Fremont. I am only requesting it on behalf of the preschool that my kids go to. I thought that it is important to teach children at a young age what policemen do and to respect them. It is a shame that there isn’t any room for even a 20 minute presentation?

Who may I speak with about this? Who can I write to to lobby for this?

Please advise.

Thank you,

Irene

——–

Irene,
 
I am the Public Affairs Manager for the Department and the community engagement programs are in my area of responsibility.  I understand that you are asking us to visit just your school, but as you can imagine a lot of people in town would like the same treatment.  We have to be fair in the services we provide and as an agency we only have the capacity to handle school presentations for early elementary age children.  While I agree 100% that it is very important to interact and educate children at a young age, our experience is that five years of age or kindergarten is when kids are more receptive to the presentation.   If we make an exception for one preschool, then we have to do the same for all.
 
We apologize and appreciate your understanding.
 
Sincerely,
Geneva Bosques
Public Affairs Manager/PIO
Fremont Police Department

——-

Irene,

I was just informed that while I can’t offer a presentation, we can send a volunteer with a patrol vehicle.  They would simply just park the car and let the kids look at and sit in the vehicle.  They would turn on the lights, siren and explain the equipment.

If this sounds like something that you’d like, let me know and we can get this set up.

Geneva 

After that exchange, I was pretty excited — something is better than nothing! I then got the preschool director in touch with the department, but then ball was dropped from there and the school director never got any confirmation of when they can get the volunteers to come out. So a month later, on August 15th, I sent this email:

Hi Geneva,

What does Fremont Police Department offer in terms of education for children younger than elementary school age? As an individual parent should I bring the kids to tour the police department to teach them about the police? Is there any videos that are provided? 

Previously we lived in Castro Valley, where the police seems to be a bit more available to preschool presentations. What are the resources available to me as a resident and a concerned parent who would like to teach my children about the helpers and first responders?

Irene

I then received an out of office autoreply from Geneva’s email account directing me to email other people. I emailed the others she recommended getting in touch with an received even more out of office auto replies.

But a day later, I did get a response:

August 16, 2013

Hi Irene,

The Department doesn’t really have any education programs for children with the exception of child safety talks for kindergarten and first graders.  In 2003 virtually all of our education programs, including DARE were cut when we lost more than 50 positions.

We do offer building tours to organized groups of children, preschool is usually still on the young side, but we would accommodate your request.  The tour is conducted by a volunteer and is more focused on the building itself and less about child safety.  Your children would likely be able to meet officers who are in the building during the tour.  

My secondary recommendation would be to attend an event where we have officers present.  We will have officers at this weekends Festival of India and the Niles Antique Faire later in the month.  

I can look next week when I return to the office to see if we have any videos on child safety.  If we do, you would be more than welcome to borrow them.

You are very lucky that Alameda County Sheriff’s Office still provides child education programs in the Castro Valley area.  Fremont unfortunately is one of the lowest staffed agencies in the nation and while we are beginning to add back positions it will be some time before we are able to provide the programs we had prior to 2003.  

Let me know if you’d like us to schedule a tour and I will check on the video.

Sincerely,

Geneva

To which I responded with this, and cc’d the police chief and city manager:

Dear Ms. Geneva Bosque,

It is well recognized by many experts that the first 5 years of life is most important and provide the base for the brain’s organizational development throughout life. Children need to learn who they can trust, well before the age of 5. Recently events in the news and the fact that there are many parents in this community who do not have other family members living in close proximity makes this an important lesson for young children, especially those younger than 5. It is important for young children to understand that in an emergency, when parents are not available, they can be comfortable with the role of the police officer as a community helper, and that he/she can be trusted to help them. 

I understand that you are just doing your job to enforce the policy (that you had nothing to do with creating) of no presentations for children under the age of 5, but telling me now that I am a resident and home owner citizen of Fremont that I was lucky to have been in Castro Valley makes me a bit sad, since I do live here now. Even before buying a house and moving to Fremont I have been studying up on the city; since our correspondence I have even read the city’s budget for 2012-2013 as posted on Fremont.gov. While I am aware that Fremont Police has lost 52 positions in 2003, my reading of more recent news leads me to believe that more officers have been added back since and budget has been increased for 2013 for more hiring. I do understand that with 185 current full time police officers, the officer to resident ratio of 0.85 is still below average, but community services such as child safety education does not necessarily need to be performed by full time police officers.

I was quite excited to have moved into a proper city (which is ranked the #2 safest city in the country) from an unincorporated area, and I am sad to discover that Fremont Police Department does not recognize that children under age of 5 as a valuable part of the community and the importance of acquainting young children with community helpers. Yes, young children have short attention spans, which means that short presentations with show and tell props like police car and police dogs can help make things interesting. I would be happy to bring my children in to the police station on my own but for preschools it tends to be more difficult to transport a large group of children to the police station. Plus, as you mentioned the focus is more on the building, which is not as important a lesson to teach the children as actual safety and interaction with officers. It is important that young children understand that in an emergency, police officer are community helpers that can be trusted to help them.

I know that few people have the interest to speak on behalf of preschool children, but I am quite serious and passionate about teaching about community helpers in early childhood. There are few things I consider more than the safety of my young children and I believe their ability to communicate with and trust a police officer can save their lives and the lives of others. It is better to teach the kids how not to be abducted than to have to look for them after they are lost; it is better to teach kids how to call 911 and get help than to deal with the aftermath of their helplessness. I hope that a city as innovative and resourceful as Fremont will be able to come up with some creative solutions for its youngest citizens to learn that a police officer is your friend. 

Sincerely,

Irene Shen

I don’t know what will happen from here. Perhaps we will be able to get a volunteer to finally come out, but I definitely want to understand the no presentation under age 5 policy. Hopefully I will have more updates to follow. It’s not easy to be an active and concerned citizen!

UPDATE:
As a testament to the power of social media, when I published this post, it autoposted to my Twitter and Google+ account and within the hour I received the following email in my inbox:

Hi Irene,

I spoke to Ms. Eva yesterday who I believe is the director at your Montessori school. She let me know that our volunteers came out yesterday for the vehicle show and tell presentation, but that there had been a communication mishap, so she asked if they could leave and come back another time. We are working to see if we can get two volunteers to return next Friday and will confirm that with her once we have made the arrangements on our end.

As for continuing the conversation about education and options such as building tours, videos, etc., please call me directly at 790-6957 to discuss this further.

Sincerely,
Geneva Bosques

Open Letter to Fremont Fire Department

I want to teach my young children not to be scared of firefighters in mask with ax in hand.

I want to teach my young children not to be scared of firefighters in mask with ax in hand.


Today was supposed to be a fun day at my son and daughter’s preschool. We had arranged for the Fire Department to come and visit and instead the kids did not have fun. The youngest among them were frustrated and disappointed. As a parent who was there to witness it all, it got me boiling mad. I wanted to teach my children about the helpers, the real life heroes that will be there for them in times of danger and need, even if I am not there. Sadly, this did not happen. I decided to write the letter below and I sent it to the Fremont Fire Department and Fremont’s Mayor. I may never get a response, but I believe it is worth trying anyway.

To Fremont Fire Department and Mayor Bill Harrison,

I am a new resident to the city of Fremont and a mother of two preschool age children who go to school at Empire Montessori Preschool in Fremont. Having been previously in Castro Valley, the Alameda County Fire Department often conducted annual presentations to kids at the preschools there, and I have always had a great impression of every fire fighter that I have ever met because they have always been very gracious with the kids, including my own, even when we just see them out on the street during the day. As an involved parent, I try to do my best to help the preschool, so when I heard from the Director about how she had previously tried to contact the Fire Department about doing a presentation for the kids only to be refused, I told her that I would look into this.

I am writing to express my disappointment with the brief visit that the preschoolers had by the Fire Department.

I initially contacted Irene de Jong, who is the business manager at the Fremont Fire Department, back in the middle of July. She informed me that the Fremont Fire Department does indeed do presentations for young children, and that I should contact Pamela Franklin, who was then on vacation. After waiting for Pamela to return from vacation, I contact Pamela, and then waited a few more weeks before she got back to me. We were informed that the Fire Department is extremely busy, and usually don’t do presentations for children under age of 5. However, I was later informed by the preschool director that a presentation was scheduled and we were all very excited about the visit for Thursday August 15. After hearing about the Fire Department visit, some other parents actually arranged their children’s schedule so that their kids can benefit from this presentation.

Now I feel as if I did the teachers as well as all the younger kids a huge disservice as the fire department arrived only to disappoint them.

When the scheduled time arrived, all the teachers brought the children out to the playground, which was next to the parking lot where the Fire Truck was parked. However, the fire fighters informed the director at that time that there would only be 30 minutes available, and they would not present to the younger children who were also out waiting. Worse, the younger kids also did not get to receive a plastic fire fighter helmet or even a sticker. The kids 3 and younger were brought out, not able to play at the playground, and told to sit around only to be disappointed!!

I was completely flabbergasted — I have never seen such a weak presentation by a fire department. I know better than to approach the firefighters about this since they are doing what they are told. Even the fire department’s presentation to the children age 3 and older were far from complete — they didn’t dress in the full fire fighter outfit. I thought the whole point of a presentation is so that children can be familiar with not only fire safety but also be more familiar with what firefighters look like when they might encounter one during a fire. I most certainly did not understand why the presentation couldn’t be given to the younger children as well since they were all sitting out there anyway! When I talked with the teachers later on, they told me that not only were they disappointed, the children were very upset by the experience and it created more work for them. Instead of being happy, it literally ruined their day — Some refused to eat lunch, and some did not cooperate during nap time. and I imagine some parents will hear about it after the kids go home.

My previous experience with fire safety presentation in Castro Valley was so much better: Even though Redwood Forest Preschool was a bigger school and had children as young as 18 months, the Alameda  Fire Department did a thorough presentation which included full show and tell of fire fighting gear. They had one firefighter who would demonstrate what the tools did, one who dressed in full outfit to show what firefighters looked like with full suit and mask, and literally every one of the firefighter (3 as I recalled) had a job. None of the firefighters just stood around, as in the presentation today by the Fire Department. I mean, even if you can’t get full time fire fighters to do this kind of presentation, can’t volunteers be asked to do this?

I realize that instructing preschool children is low priority for the Fremont Fire Department, but I feel that the Fire Department should take pride in how they organize and present their fire safety presentations, ESPECIALLY to  young children who look up to them. This is the audience that would benefit the most from a good and thorough presentation, especially since there are quite a few actually afraid of fire fighters (I have come to discover).  How else are young children supposed to learn? Are individual parents supposed to bring the kids into a fire house? If you can’t count on fire departments to care about such things, who should? How else are children supposed to learn about those who Mr. Rogers call, “the helpers” when scary things happen?

Sincerely,

 

Irene Shen

P.S. I will also be sending a copy of this letter to our Congressman Eric Swalwell.

UPDATE: I received the following response from Geoff LaTendresse, Fire Chief of Fremont Fire Department:

Dear Ms. Shen,

Thank you for contacting me to express your displeasure with your recent experiences involving our Department and the Empire Montessori Preschool. I was saddened to learn of your disappointment because our relationship with the community we serve is of paramount importance to us. Please be assured that we will look into this matter fully and immediately. To that end, I spoke to Deputy Chief Jim Martin who heads our Operations Division first thing this morning and tasked him with reviewing the matter. The Fremont Fire Department is committed to strong community partnerships and fire safety education and we take that role very serious. Please allow Chief Martin a few days to conduct his review and in the meantime, if you would like to speak with him directly please feel free to contact him at:

Deputy Chief Jim Martin
510-494-4202
jmartin@fremont.gov

Again, thank you for taking the time to communicate with us.

Sincerely,

Geoff LaTendresse, Fire Chief
Fremont Fire Department

Hopefully I will get more detailed information on Fremont Fire Department’s policies on children safety education.