Children Miscellaneous Parenting Personal

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

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


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.

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.”

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.

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!


Irene Shen

Deputy Jim Martin sent the following response:


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:

National Fire Protection Association:

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.



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.

Children Family Personal Relationships Strategies

Holiday Travel with Children

I just came back from a holiday trip to visit my husband’s family out in Naples, Florida for Christmas and I am proud of my family and I have learned a lot on this trip! Frankly, during my research and planning there are so many articles that added to my fear of flying with children. I had been planning and dreading this trip since August and am glad to report that the travel was a successful one. Here’s what I have learned:

Buy a seat for your child(ren).
Do not be like this family when travelling for the holidays. We could have travelled with our baby as a lap child but it was better for everyone involved to purchase a seat for both our toddler and our infant. We have four seats and I used to help me pick out a good seating arrangement. I looked for seat row near the wing (where engine noise would be helpful for kids’ sleep) and my children and I took up the row of three seats (baby sat in the carseat at the window seat, toddler sat in the aisle seat, I sat in between the two children), while my husband sat across the aisle from my toddler. He was also able to grab things out of the bag and grab snacks when needed more easily than I can. My baby slept much better in the carseat than she could on my lap!

Picking a good itinerary and try to get a 1.5 to 2 hour layover where possible.
The trend in domestic air travel is to squeeze out many services and amenities so having a longer layover in between connecting flights so that you can grab a bite to eat, change a diaper, or walk around a bit can make a big difference. Our first flight was changed to leave later than previously booked, which gave us a 45 minute layover. I was not able to change the itinerary as the options are few so we kept our fingers crossed. Our flight was pretty much on time but we still barely made our connecting flight at Dallas Fort Worth Airport because we were given the wrong gate number on top of having to run to a different terminal to catch the connecting flight. The flight did not have any snacks other than crackers for sale (not even a sandwich!) so we were not able to eat a dinner. Skipping a meal is hard on a breastfeeding mom as is and combine that with air travel and it is just plain unpleasant.

Pack the necessities and carry-ons wisely.
Most airlines now charge for every checked luggage, and if you go over on the weight you will pay hefty fees. We travelled with two large wheeled luggage, one wheeled carry-on,two diaper bags, a backpack, a purse, and an Ergo baby carrier. We used an umbrella stroller (our Uppababy G-Luxe with a stroller bag). The stroller bag became our extra checked luggage on our return trip as we became laden with Christmas presents for the children. We had more flexibility when it comes to carry-ons due to the fact that we purchased seats for our children and the airlines tend to be nice about diaper bags, but still when you are traveling with two young children (and carrying an infant carseat) it is best to carry as few as possible. We elected to purchase a CARES harness instead of carrying an additional convertible carseat for the toddler and purchased a convertible carseat sent to the grandparents. It was a lot easier to use the harness than deal with the hassle of the additional larger carseat and gave us flexibility in seating arrangements. On one flight, we had the toddler and Dad sit in the next row behind myself and the baby, with the toddler also sitting at a window seat. Most of the flights had the toddler sitting next to mom, though. Having his teddy bear, a few choice snacks, a book he enjoys, a portable DVD player, and a small collection of good DVDs really helped my toddler behave exceptionally well on these flights. He didn’t even kick any seats!

Focus on your children’s safety and comfort; ignore “other people.”
My children behaved well, better than I expected, and for that I am very proud. That said, there are always people who might roll their eyes or complain even if you have not done anything wrong. I was focused on my children so I really hardly noticed other people’s attitudes, except for the lady who complained to the flight attendant. The lady who sat in front of my daughter on the flight complained to the flight attendant that she could not recline her seat because of my rear-facing infant car seat being in the way and wanted the carseat moved as my baby was sleeping in it. I explained that the seat had to be used rear-facing and per airline regulations it has to be at the window seat. Ultimately, the flight attendant asked another passenger who sat on the aisle seat in front of my son if they could switch seats so that she can recline her seat.

There are also other families and other friendly folks on the plane.
Before embarking on the trip, I did a lot of research and there are plenty of articles and comments that will intensify the fear of flying with children. For every person who hates you for bringing your children, there are more that are nice, helpful, or neutral. I want to go on record to say that there are plenty of people who are nice and helpful to me while on this trip. One lady made my day when she told me that she thinks I am doing an awesome job with my children. Two men on the parking shuttle helped me move my stroller with toddler off the bus. A few other people even asked if they could help me out carrying something, or encouragingly told me I was doing OK as I walked down the airplane aisle trying to not hit anyone with my diaper bag or my baby.

I learned a lot about my children, myself, and my partner on this trip. The experience brought us closer. I am very proud of my children and even a little proud of myself and my husband too.


Good Resources:

Flying with Babies, Toddlers, and Kids

Jet With Kids

Have Baby Will Travel





Book Children Family Home Strategies

Book Review: Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Childrearing in America

While Anxious Parents is not a how-to parenting book, it is very useful for a parent to read as a primer to parenting books. I wish I had read this book before reading over 20 different kinds of parenting books before and after the birth of my first child. While I believe that this book could really use better editing (it is written by a historian, after all), it is a good read for new and expectant parents as that grain of salt that is much needed before embarking absorbing on other parenting books.

As a typical Type A, I like to plunge myself into any subject and research the facts, and I treated parenting much the same way. I didn’t have much resource in terms of family, so I decided to approach it like any subject I learned in school — by reading a lot. The problem with parenting book is that the majority of them are quite condescending in tone, and I can almost picture the author wagging their finger as they tell you how to do things their way. The other problem with parenting books is that you might do everything you say and your child may not do as they described your child should do… and then you would be tearing out your hair wondering WHY?? You might even think that there is something wrong with your baby and worry needlessly, as parents tend to do.

Anxious Parents is a book that chronicles how parenting changes over time and creates anxiety in parents. It really helps to put all that expert advice in perspective.

Enhanced by Zemanta