In 2014, Bunni and Rick Benaron founded The Hero In You Foundation as a way to honor first responders, but the project has morphed into a campaign that teaches kids to use their common sense and their senses to stay safe and be ready for emergencies. Six years ago, the Benarons were erecting 6-foot Dalmatian sculptures around the country to honor first responders but wanted to do more. “Even though there are 30 sculptures around the coun-try, I realized it was not educating children,” says Bunni, a retired Los Angeles Unified School District teacher.
The organization partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department, the University of Southern California and the Safe Communities Institute to launch the Sense of Safety Initiative, which provides schools, after-school programs and communities with free safety lesson plans and student activities. Outreach also includes the Rocket Rules program for ages 3-9, which features mascot Rocket the Safety Dog in animated videos, school assemblies and public safety events.
The goal is to teach kids situational awareness skills, and to trust their instincts and use all of their senses to make split-second decisions that could save their lives. “It could be looking for exits, under-standing landmarks, walking home, avoiding getting lost and calling 911,” Bunni says. “If they hear or smell things that don’t seem right, run away from those situations. Use your eyes to detect danger, your ears to hear something that doesn’t sound right.”
Schools and community groups can use the Rocket Rules portal to enter challenges on safety topics ranging from daily situations to natural disasters. The “SHAKEmob” earthquake challenge teaches skills that complement school drills. Kids watch a video, perform a dance, create a video, accomplish three safety activities and practice a safety plan they can share with their families. “Schools do a great job going through drills, but there’s another 18 hours in the day,” says Barry Stockhamer, Rocket Rules program manager.
Classrooms that complete challenges are awarded safety activity books (available in English and Spanish), a classroom banner and grand prizes that may include emergency preparedness kits for the classroom, playground equipment or field trip bus vouchers.
For more information, visit rocketrules.org.