Interactive CD teaches kids how to be fire safe |

Interactive CD teaches kids how to be fire safe

It sounds a bit preposterous, but the idea came to Brad Ballard in a dream several years ago.

Ballard was a satellite systems salesman in Nevada City at the time, and he wasn’t an authority on fire safety and didn’t have an inclination to teach and knew even less about software design, he recalled.

But by October of this year, Ballard said, he hopes to bring an interactive CD to schools that teaches students up to sixth grade how to be fire safe in their homes.

“The driving force is to know that we could save a child’s life,” he said.

Fire is the second-leading cause of unintentional death for children according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Ballard said.

Ballard, who is the father of three children, took on the idea in part because schools in California and elsewhere do not have any standard fire safety curriculum, he said.

He is providing the CD for free to schools across the country and is working with the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools office to have the interactive CD in schools by October, he said.

He already has given the CD to districts in Texas and Canada, he said.

He’s taking 14,000 copies to Sacramento and will be meeting with the state Department of Education to distribute one CD to each school district for free.

The CD already has been presented to and endorsed by the Nevada County Fire Chiefs Association.

Ballard spent $100,000, including money from some private donors, to launch the program, he said. While he hasn’t made money from the CDs, he hopes to with endorsements.

“I knew this needed to be done. My wife and I decided, let’s do the right thing. I have no doubt that, eventually, the money will be there,” Ballard said.

Ed Mertens, an insurance agent and past volunteer firefighter for the Higgins Fire Department, helped Ballard develop the interactive CD. It includes teaching children familiar techniques such as “stop, drop and roll” and offers an interactive tool kit that offers quizzes on what to do if children sense smoke or fires.

“We think the project is phenomenal,” Mertens said, adding that he’d like to pitch it to his employer, Farmers Insurance, to gauge interest in using the CD with fire insurance policies.

The CD is something a parent and child can watch together, Mertens added.

“These are priceless things you can provide to the community,” Mertens said.

To contact Staff Writer David Mirhadi, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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