Jake the fire safety dog, a black Labrador retriever service canine, is the first service canine to be used exclusively to teach children about fire and life safety.
As an English version of the black lab, Jake is more refined and low-key with children than some other breeds. He has his own photo identification, is licensed as a working service animal, and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ADA as a working service canine, with his sole purpose being public education, since dogs could be used as agents of terrorism.
In April 2007, Scott D. Maker and Michael McLeieer became handlers of Jake and added him to their non-profit public charity, E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc. (Education Showing Children and Adults Procedures for Evacuations).
As Jake’s primary handler and trainer, Maker spends two hours each day teaching Jake how to act out messages such as "crawl low under smoke", "get out and stay out", and "stop, drop and roll."
Jake teaches children about fire and life safety in both the Great Lakes and New England regions including Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Our goal of teaching children in these regions is to be proactive rather than reactive. We work with area fire departments and go into schools and daycare centers, utilizing our own customized age appropriate lesson plans, to teach and reinforce these positive messages. Jake is just one way to teach those messages, but his presence has helped the educational community to welcome the program with open arms.
In the winter months, the lessons include ice and cold water safety, such as never venturing onto thin ice. In the spring, students learn about topics like bicycle helmet safety and stranger danger. Jake is also used to teach children never to go up to a strange animal without adult supervision.
Jake has learned to demonstrate making the "right choice", such as not hiding under a bed if there is fire or smoke conditions (applicable for younger children) and not using tobacco products that could result in fires (for older children).
Jake will be able to work as a service dog until he is 10 to 12 years old, when typical hip and joint problems will likely interfere with his demonstrations.
What’s in a name?
We wanted a term that related to firefighting, and the term "Jake" is a New England-derived slang term for a firefighter. This word was first used as a reference to firefighters in the early 20th century in the Greater Boston area. It is now a widely accepted term in the fire service and exclusively used to bestow great praise and the highest level of respect. To be called a “Good Jake” is the highest form of praise a Boston area fire fighter can possibly receive from a peer.
On October 3, 2007, Jake, Maker & McLeieer were in an elementary school in Merrimac, Massachusetts, teaching a preschool class about fire and life safety. Jake was very popular with the children, including 4-year-old Jack Gilbert. That evening, Jack Gilbert’s house filled with 4 feet of thick smoke due to a fire in the family’s wood stove.
Jack remembered the lessons he learned earlier that day and lead his family outside to safety to their designated meeting place. Jack learned GET OUT and STAY OUT during Jake’s demonstration from his class earlier in the day. In fact, Jack’s mother wanted to re-enter the house to retrieve the family’s bird, but Jack prevented her from doing so by saying, "Mommy, you’re suppose to be with me." On December 3, 2007, Jack was honored as a Massachusetts Young Hero by Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan for remembering what to do during an emergency situation.
On August 15, 2017, Jake the Fire Safety Dog's lesson pays off in the Eaton County community of Olivet Michigan. A fire broke out in an Olivet garage and forced the family from their home at 2am.
When firefighters arrived they found the family gathered together in a safe place while the fire was extinguished.
Afterwards, while talking with Olivet Fire Chief John Collins, the family was explaining what happened and what they did during the fire.
That’s when their 5-year-old daughter piped up and proudly said that they had a safe meeting place because Jake the Fire Dog taught them about it when he visited the 5-year old's preschool class the previous school year.
No one was injured and this is the 50th documented time a family was “saved” by a child who saw an E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety presentation and the second time Jake the Fire Safety Dog's educational demonstration was a lifesaver.
We will continue to utilize Jake in assisting to deliver our fire & life safety and juvenile firesetter intervention programs, including reaching out to audiences with disabilities, such as autism and hearing impairments.
Jake has even learned sign language commands so he is able to reach out to more target groups. In addition, Jake demonstrates the following messages:
- Crawl low under smoke
- Get out & stay out
- Whisper (inside voice vs. outside voice)
- How to be a helper
- How to stretch before exercising
- Know two ways out
- Stop, drop & roll
- What is a tool and what is a toy
- Waive to his audiences on command
- Sit, speak, whisper, & stay - following sign language commands
Finally, Jake & his primary handler and trainer Scott D. Maker are members of the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers.