Millions of dogs can sit, stay, and roll over. Lucky for us (and for 400,000 kids a year), fire fighter Jeff Owens made the connection between those standard dog moves and the life-saving advice to “stop, drop, and roll.” And then he started up Koorsen’s Kasey Program, which uses dogs to demonstrate fire safety tactics in schools. Now in its 20th year, the Kasey Program has reached millions of kids in several states.
“The dogs demonstrate all the skills that we teach kids, which makes the program memorable,” Owens said. “I play guitar and sing to reinforce all the messages in the program, so they’re getting the information in a few different ways. And it’s something different: They have adults standing in front of them all day, every day. The dogs come in, and right away they’re mesmerized.”
“Jeff really has a passion for fire safety and for teaching children,” said Koorsen President and CEO Randy Koorsen. “This has been a neat way to give back to the community for us, and we get great feedback about Jeff and about the dogs. It’s been very satisfying to know that he’s getting the message out—and in such a memorable way.”
Owens, who now serves as Koorsen’s Public Education Coordinator, trains the dogs—all female black labs—himself. Their primary job is educating children, but they are also trained search and rescue dogs who work in that capacity throughout the community and in their spare time volunteer as therapy dogs for children in Illinois and Indiana burn camps.
“We have our third- and fifth-generation dogs with us now,” he said. “And I’ll start training a new pup this summer. We start training on the day the dog comes home, and we do it every day for three and a half years.”
The end result is that the labs are unflappable and highly effective educators. Not to mention endearing to the hundreds of thousands of kids they teach.
“I could change my shirt and come right back into a training, and the kids wouldn’t recognize me,” Owens said. “But I can come back with the dogs a year later, and kids greet them by name. There’s a natural bond between kids and dogs.”
Owens uses that bond to get the message out to kids and others in the community through school convocations, community festivals, and other public venues, and he travels not just to all of our Koorsen locations but throughout the country.
“This is the only nationally touring fire and life safety program in the country, as far as we can tell,” Owens said. “And we know that it has saved at least 15 lives so far. It’s incredible to know we’re creating that kind of positive impact. We’re protecting the next generation.”
Koorsen Fire & Security was founded in 1946 and is a third-generation, family owned business. Over the years, Koorsen has become one of the largest and most respected fire and security companies in the United States with over 23 locations and over 700 associates. Koorsen Fire & Security is well-known for having the best training in the industry, and is insured and certified to design, install, program, service and repair virtually all fire and security products for any size business. Contact us to schedule your free on-site hazard analysis.