|Fire Safety Training with Scout and Chris Carpenter
By Paul K. Lindhorst
Public Education Committee
Dalmatian Club of America
Dalmatians have always been associated with fire engines and firehouses Their natural affinity for
horses made them an ideal coaching dog for the carriages of old and the horse drawn fire wagons found
Dalmatians useful to coach the fire wagon and calm the horses at the fire.
Chris Carpenter, a firefighter in Pelham, Alabama has taken the relationship to the next level. Using
his Dalmatian, Scout, as a partner he is training the public in the basics of fire safety. In 1998 Chris
heard of an interactive program in Hopkinsville KY where a Dalmatian named Chief, was being used to help
teach school children fire safety. He asked Chief's trainer, Jane Alexander to help him find a Dalmatian
and assist setting up a similar program in Pelham.
Scout was obtained from DCA members Ginger Iwaoka and Meg Hennessey in 1999. In three months Scout was
trained by Jane and was ready for his first event, while Chris went through three days training himself.
A few days later they were thrust in to their first event in a large arena. It was a chaotic situation with
an audience of 600 people, farm animals, noise, and lots of distractions. Their performance was flawless.
To this day, in spite of the conditions, Scout always stays focused on the program.
Their program of Home Escape Plans and Fire Safety consists of the following:
- How to check a Smoke Detector - Testing and changing the batteries
- Crawl low in smoke and check your door - For sleeping with the door closed
- Go to a meeting place - All family members meet at the fire hydrant!
- How to dial 911 - Key pads make the beep sound of a phone being dialed
- How to Stop, Drop and Roll - What to do if your clothes catch fire
Each of these "acts" have props, made by Carpenter, and Scout is trained perfectly to interact with
each of them and to convey the important messages to his audience.
After the formal program, Scout is available to the audience to meet personally and get a few pets and
loves. Chris says that the children love to do a "spot check" counting spots, poking around on Scout, and
making over him. Scout is wonderful with the kids and has a wonderful calm temperament.
Scout at Day Care and making friends at the Elementary school.
Chris and Scout have trained an estimated 30,000 people from day care children through all ages of
school children to senior citizens in residential care and assisted living facilities.
His publicity is primarily by word of mouth and his expenses are funded by a few private businesses.
The city cooperates by giving Chris the time to do his programs and travel.
Chris and Scout have received several awards, among them the "Public Safety Educator of the Year",
"Firefighter of the Year", and the "AKC - K9 Excellence Award (Honorable Mention)".
Soon after Chris and Scout were performing regularly, Chief became available, and Chris agreed to make
Chief part of the program with Scout.
Chris and Scout and Chief have shown through their example that Dalmatians from responsible breeders
are very trainable, they enjoy performing, and have wonderful temperaments ideal for children and seniors
Chris lives in Pell City, Alabama, with his lovely wife, Christy, and their two children, Curt, age 10
and their daughter Cayla, age 4 (and of course their two Dalmatians, Chief and Scout).
Scout is featured on this poster, promoting the Fire Hydrant products of the American Cast Iron Pipe Company of Birmingham, AL.