Jennifer Cooper is a fire and life safety mentor you need to know

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

ICYMI, here are Part I and Part II of this four-part series this week.

Now if you’ve been following along, you know that the focus here is how you and your department can develop some better strategies for teaching children and adults how to avoid becoming a victim of a preventable fire.

Because we know that conducting fire station open houses, giving away coloring books and plastic helmets and Junior Fire Marshal badges to children, and other “standard” fire prevention education tools and programs are not educational, right? Even those demonstrations using a residential fire sprinkler simulator are not giving people the knowledge and skills necessary to protect themselves today.

Break the mold this year

In Part I, I promised I was going to introduce you to four women that you and your fire department should get to know between now and National Fire Prevention Week 2019. Today the spotlight shines on:

Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper, Fire Prevention Officer, Fire Prevention / Public Education Officer at Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville (ON) Fire and Emergency Services

Back in October 2016 I wrote an article about an amazing story of a 17-year-old young woman, Brianna Baker, who’d become a full-time Fire Prevention Officer/Fire Educator with the Town of Whitchurch-Stoufeville’s Fire and Emergency Services Department in Ontario (To the best of our knowledge, the youngest person in Canada ever to attain such a full-time position in a fire department).

I couldn’t locate the piece, so here’s the condensed version. Part of a student’s secondary education in Canada is doing a “co-op.” The student identifies an occupation that they might be interested in pursuing when they graduate.

Then they “go to work”, as an unpaid intern, at that for the majority of their school week; a student attends school one day a week to check in, review what they’ve been working on and what they’ve learned, and stay abreast with other developments at school.

Brianna chose to see what was available at her local fire department,
Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville (ON) Fire and Emergency Services. When she learned there were no opportunities in the suppression/response side of the department, she made contact with Fire Prevention Officer Jennifer Cooper.

With Cooper’s guidance and direction, Brianna became fully immersed in the work done by Cooper and her colleagues. So immersed, that when an opportunity as a full-time fire prevention officer came up, Cooper encouraged Brianna to apply for the position. And then helped her prepare for the interviewing an hiring process.

Jennifer Cooper teaching water safety program

The focus of that earlier article was obviously on Brianna’s amazing achievement at such a young age, and the “back story” is the leadership and guidance and encouragement that she received from Jennifer Cooper from the beginning of their working relationship.

Brianna made it very clear to me that she’d have not been nearly as successful in both her co-op assignment for school or in attaining a full-time FPO position had it not been for Jennifer’s 100 percent willingness to share her knowledge with her. For me, that was the real “take away” from that awesome story. Here’s what Jennifer had to say after the article posted:

“It was a gift that Brianna Baker came into the fire station that day. As you already know, it is a goal and dream of mine to develop a mentoring program that will allow others to discover their passion for fire and life safety education.”

FPO Brianna Baker (L) and FPO Jennifer Cooper (R)

“They say it takes a village to raise a child and the same is true in the fire service. We are fortunate to have lots of support and encouragement from a team of dedicated individuals at Whitchurch- Stouffville Fire and Emergency Services. My mentors have believed in me, supported me and gave me a little nudge when I needed it. It’s a precious gift to give to someone else and I am deeply grateful for the privilege.”

To my mentor, Jennifer Cooper. Thank you for taking me under your wing. For teaching me the importance, passion and rewarding moments that come with doing something you love. For always standing by my side and supporting me along this journey. This is only the beginning and I look forward to what the future holds. Thank you for all that you do and everyone for their support. 

Brianna Baker, Fire Prevention Officer and Fire Educator,
Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville (ON) Fire and Emergency Services

There are plenty of young people like Brianna out there who have the “head and heart” for fire and life safety education. We need to find them and then provide them with that same kind of leadership, guidance and encouragement that Brianna received from Jennifer.

For more, visit Jennifer’s LinkedIn Page

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

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Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.