In 1992, Blank Children's Hospital started the campaign to raise funds for a Fire Safety House, a place that provides a hands-on learning tool that prepares children for the unexpected and frightening experiences of a fire. Contributions from numerous civic organizations and clubs, businesses and individuals helped to fund the Fire Safety House. The house was purchased and education began in the Des Moines area in 1994.
Rick Pearson, a retired professional firefighter and Fire Safety officer, and his wife, Sandy, former volunteer firefighter, missed the excitement of firefighting. To keep involved with fire safety/prevention, the two joined the hospital's volunteer program to assist with the Fire Safety House in 1996. Since that time the two have volunteered more than 680 hours, educated more than 5,200 children and traveled approximately 6,000 miles in the state of Iowa providing hands-on learning to children.
The Fire Safety House is built on a trailer frame and measures 28 feet long, 8 feet wide and 16 ½ feet tall. There is a living room, kitchen and bedroom set up with props for the children to go through and find fire hazards. There is a control booth where the faux smoke is controlled and a telephone to answer when the children practice dialing 911.
In each community visited the Pearson's train volunteers (firefighters, auxiliary personnel, teachers and parents) to assist with the education in the Fire Safety House. It takes approximately 6-7 volunteers to run the house—a volunteer is placed in each room of the house and different areas outside. Participating children watch a brief video featuring Ronald McDonald discussing fire safety and tips on how to get out alive. Groups of 7-8 children then enter the house where they identify and discuss the various hazards found. A faux fire is then simulated and children are taught techniques on how to get out safely.
The Pearson's have traveled to many rural communities in the state. As they pull into the many communities, word travels fast that they are there. Parents and other adults attending the community events are encouraged to go through the house with the children. At every event, there is someone wanting the house to come to their community. The Pearson's goal is to educate as many children as possible in the State of Iowa. They believe if the children remember one fire safety prevention technique; it will vastly decrease the amount of juvenile and adult injuries or deaths as a result of fire.