There were plenty of emergency vehicles at the Taylor Education Center Tuesday morning, but no emergency (repeat: NO EMERGENCY). In fact, the safest place to be was Taylor, temporarily aka Safety City.
Safety City is an annual summer program coordinated by the Des Moines Police Department. It’s a “place” where 4-5 year-olds learn safe habits in all kinds of contexts, from playgrounds to burning buildings, as well as who’s to be trusted and who’s not.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” said DMPD Senior Police Officer Shawna Isaac, the coordinator; no, make that the mayor, of Safety City. “There are three sessions and this is #3 this summer, but the first one we’ve held at this site.”
The first two weeklong sessions were at River Woods Elementary. Officer Isaac said roughly 60 kids participated all told, and each of them “graduates” to safe citizen status. Instead of caps, gowns and diplomas, graduates receive bike helmets and t-shirts.
But not before they’ve completed their classwork in math (911), meteorology (weather safety), chemistry (poison control), sociology (stranger danger), driver/passenger education (seat belts/booster seats) and biology (animal safety), among other subjects.
“It’s been a popular program,” said Isaac. “Some years we end up with a waiting list.”
The Des Moines Fire Department’s jurisdiction also extends to Safety City. Lots of emphasis is placed on fire prevention and what to do in the event of a fire, and firefighters are on hand to teach proper procedures. And parked outside is the mobile Fire Safety House, (courtesy of Blank Children’s Hospital, the Iowa Elks Association, State Farm Insurance, the CPCU Society, EMC Insurance, Prairie Meadows and Safe Kids Iowa) where kids learn mantras like “Stay low and go,” and “Hear the beep where you sleep.” Plus, they get to practice an actual escape route, homework they’re strongly encouraged to get parental help with.
Safety City isn’t a tourist trap and summer visits there aren’t vacations. But it’s definitely a great place to live. The sooner kids learn that, the better.