In 1983, while serving as president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters) Society – a membership organization of credentialed insurance professionals – and seeing countless claims of household fires, Northampton resident Pete Palestina realized something.
The loss of property and, more importantly, lives, was almost always preventable. People just needed a little knowledge on how to effectively avoid disaster.
That year, while simultaneously serving as township supervisor and actively working to promote public safety, Palestina aided the CPCU in partnering with Council Rock School District to launch the inaugural Fire Safety in the Home Contest. The friendly competition, open to all elementary students in the district, tasked young residents with researching how to prevent fires and, if needed, stay safe while in the face of one.
Each created posters, essays or presentations detailing the results of their findings, with the top projects from designated age groups awarded monetary prizes and recognition from local and state officials.
After being met with enthusiasm year after year from the student body, staff and community, the Fire Safety in the Home Contest has continued on an annual basis. On Oct. 6-12, in conjunction with National Fire Prevention Week, the highly-anticipated initiative will celebrate its 36th year.
“We hope that the children understand and learn about fire safety so that their family and the entire community benefits from a fire safety aspect,” said Palestina. “Too often, we read about the loss of lives and property from a fire and if we can save but one life, it makes programs such as this contest well worth the effort.”
Student projects are expected to cover everything from “stop, drop and roll” and how to safely exit a burning home, to the importance of regularly changing the batteries in a smoke detector.
Their work will be critiqued by a panel of judges, comprised of Palestina, Council Rock school board director Joseph Hidalgo, and Northampton Township Fire Marshal Frank Fenton.
The contest is once again open to all Council Rock students in grades 1 through 6. Each school will have a staffer assigned as a coordinator, for which questions from students or parents can be addressed.
In order to keep things fair, there will be three levels of competition: first and second graders, third and fourth graders, and fifth and sixth graders.
First place finishers in each level of competition will receive $100 cash, movie passes and a plaque. Second, third and fourth place finishers will receive $50 cash, movie passes and a plaque. In addition, citations are expected to be presented from the Pennsylvania Senate by Sens. Tommy Tomlinson and Steve Santarsiero, from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by Reps. Wendi Thomas and Perry Warren, and from the U.S. Congress by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.
At this time, the awards are scheduled to be presented on Nov. 14 at the Council Rock school board meeting, and on Nov. 20 at the Northampton Township board of supervisors meeting.
Council Rock’s municipalities are Newtown Borough and the townships of Northampton, Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org