The Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA) is a nonprofit organization that has been in existence since 1982 and is dedicated to statewide fire safety and burn prevention efforts as well as supporting survivors of burn injuries. The Mount Prospect-based group has a wide-variety of materials, tools, and supplies available to organizations across the state to help educate on how to prevent destructive fires, burn injuries, or worse. For those who have been adversely effected by a burn injury, the IFSA hosts various programs throughout the year to help support both children and adults in their recovery.
With a volunteer board of 11 individuals and a full-time staff of three, the IFSA works diligently to produce fire safety and prevention pieces and distribute them throughout Illinois. These materials include informational pamphlets on home fire prevention and safety, bath thermometers to help reduce the chances of a scald injury to infants or the elderly, fact cards and PSA videos on the dangers of sparklers, booklets designed specifically for older adult safety, plus other resources to meet the needs of other high-risk groups. Just recently, the IFSA, in cooperation with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, developed a smoke alarm installation program, aiming to reduce the number of residential fire related injuries and deaths across the state by providing 10-year concealed battery smoke alarms. The IFSA works closely with groups such as fire departments, associations, hospitals, schools, and assisted living facilities to help distribute materials and resources to their constituents at no cost.
The Illinois Fire Safety Alliance is most well-known for its programs and services which support burn survivors that reside in the state. As a result of fundraising efforts and donations received throughout the year, these programs are available at no cost to the attendees. Camp “I Am Me,” the organization’s signature program, is a special and unforgettable one-week overnight camp experience for children and teenagers who have suffered injuries from burns. Since 1991, the IFSA has been providing this safe, non-judgmental environment for children to have the opportunity to build their self-esteem as they enjoy the various activities that make up their camp experience. The camp is available for those between the ages of 8-16 and on average, hosts 70 campers annually. Nearly 65 volunteers are at camp for the entire week, interacting with the campers and leading activities and special events. Camp “I Am Me” was the first camp (for burn survivors) to become accredited in the United States through the American Camp Association.
The newest support program is the IFSA’s Family Day event, a one-day program for families who have a child that has been effected by a burn injury. In addition to educational presentations, the day allows for both children and adults to meet and network with others who have been through similar situations, all while enjoying family-friendly activities in a fun atmosphere. The program, which was introduced in 2015, is available for survivors between 0-12 years of age and their siblings and parents.
The Young Adult Summit is a three-day retreat developed to prepare and assist attendees for the challenges ahead of them not only as burn survivors, but as young adults. The summit, which is available to 18-25 year olds, provides life skills and identifies struggles associated with burn injuries through scheduled workshops and activities that support personal growth, emotional healing, relationships, and self-image. The program also allows for a young adult exchange program with the IFSA’s “sister-summit,” a burn survivor foundation located in Burbank, California.
Last is a scholarship program which allows survivors to participate in a four-day international conference, bringing together more than 900 burn survivors, their families, caregivers, and burn care professionals. The IFSA facilitates numerous “World Burn Congress Scholarships,” covering 100% of the conference, travel, and lodging costs for the scholarship recipient. The conference provides a forum for encouraging and facilitating the sharing of stories, providing support, and increasing knowledge of burn recovery. Through workshops, speakers, and peer-to-peer dialogue, professionals come to better understand the issues that impact the lives of burn survivors.
To learn how the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance can support fire prevention efforts as well as to receive more information on burn survivor support services, visit the newly redesigned IFSA website, www.IFSA.org.
By: Philip Zaleski, Executive Director
Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA), Mount Prospect, IL