Forest Park firefighters teach safe sleep to prevent infant deaths

When the Forest Park Fire Department responded to four infant sleeping deaths over a three-month span, all in the same apartment complex, Captain Tom Jackson felt that something had to be done. “The department has always done a lot of education about smoke detectors and in the schools,” said Jackson. “These things make a difference, so I thought, why not make a difference with something as important as babies sleeping safely?”

Cpt Tom Jackson of Forest Park Fire Department
Captain Tom Jackson of Forest Park Fire Department

Jackson took his concerns to Assistant Fire Chief Jermaine Hill, who also heads up the Forest Park WeTHRIVE! Team. WeTHRIVE! connected Hill and Jackson to the Ohio Equity Institute (OEI) and Cradle Cincinnati. OEI is a statewide program—run locally by Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH)—to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality. HCPH and Cradle Cincinnati are joining forces to implement and support infant mortality initiatives in the 45240 (Forest Park) ZIP code.

Cradle Cincinnati is now helping the Forest Park Fire Department implement the Direct On Scene Education (DOSE) program. DOSE is a proactive way to educate families about infant sleep safety. When firefighters and EMTs respond to an emergency, they look for signs of an infant in the home. “When we see a crib, we check to see if there is anything in it that may be dangerous,” said Jackson. “Blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, even crib bumpers don’t belong in cribs.”

Cpt Tom Jackson and Asst Chief Jermaine Hill of Forest Park Fire Department
Captain Tom Jackson with Assistant Fire Chief Jermaine Hill

They are also on the lookout for babies sleeping in places other than cribs. “We’ve seen a baby sleeping on a couch who gets caught in the cushions and suffocates,” said Jackson. “It’s more dangerous than people realize.” With the DOSE program, first responders talk to parents and caregivers about safe sleep practices. Soon the department will have cribs to give to families that don’t have one.

In Forest Park, the fire department is respected and trusted by the community. This makes parents and caregivers open to the informal safety education fire rescue personnel provide. “We try to make parents realize that it’s not their fault, but they may be doing things that put their baby in danger,” said Jackson.