Hold on to your hats, folks, cause we're racing off to our next stop on our museum circuit, The Francis X. Pendl Nassau County Firefighters Museum. The museum is housed within the hangars of the Cradle of Aviation but has its own admission and exhibits. From the outside, the museum appears misleadingly small, but I was pleasantly surprised to experience all it has to offer, for both children and adults.
Do you and your family have a plan in the event of an emergency and a meeting point if you need to leave the house in a hurry? Do your children know not to hide during a fire or other emergency, and is your house number clear and visible (ours wasn't)? If you answered no or are unsure about the answers to any of these questions, you must get yourself and your family down here in a hurry. While you and your kids will have a lot of fun here, one visit may very well save a life.
As the facility is both a museum and education center, you will certainly learn a lot about emergency preparedness while getting a glimpse at how fires were fought in the past with historical apparatuses and memorabilia. Currently on display are several life-size fire engines, including a 1952 Ward LaFrance floodlight truck that was used in Manhasset through the 1970s.
My daughter was fascinated by a miniature Dalmation exhibit. According to the displayed information, Dalmations were traditionally used as fire dogs because they made great companions for the horses and were able to clear the way so the horses could get through busy streets, while keeping the horses calm. Today, dalmations are still common in firehouses as mascots out of reverence for the service they performed in the past.
A 9/11 Memorial pays tribute to the 18 Nassau County firefighters who lost their lives on that dreadful day. While it will be a somber visit for adults, it is still appropriate for young children as there is nothing graphic or disturbing on display. A statue of a firefighter rescuing a baby is very moving.
By far, the most memorable part of our visit, for my kids, ages 3 and 5, was the interactive junior firefighter program. By following the prompts, participants are guided to dress like a firefighter, board a fire truck and head to a burning home to rescue a small child who was hiding in a closet. They may also take turns opening a hydrant and pointing the hose at the fire. This whole experience left quite an impression on my five-year-old, as she has been telling anyone who will listen how dangerous it is to hide during a fire.
Another interactive exhibit starts a crackling fire at the push of a button. Children must then crawl through a small space to get out safely. The sound of the fire alone was quite frightening for my children, and they didn't want to crawl through the black tunnel. This reinforced to me the importance of having them adequately prepared. What if there had been a real fire and I wasn't able to coax them through? May we never be faced with this emergency, but if we are, I'm hoping this simulation will at least prepare them for what to expect.
There is a play area for kids and two cushioned play areas for babies. As a mom of three, I found this very helpful. While the other two were enjoying the exhibits the baby was entertained crawling around and playing with toys. Toddlers and preschoolers can sit at a table and color and play with fire-themed games and puzzles.
Additionally, there are exhibits on water conservation; protecting our hydrants; stop, drop, and roll; and on developing a family action plan in the event of an emergency. Handouts are available for parents on each of these topics.
There are displays of equipment firefighters use, including the jaws of life, axes, and hoses. Firefighter clothing is also available for children to wear, including helmets, and the exhibit explains their importance.
Children can climb aboard a life-size fire truck and either take the wheel or hang on back.
Children can practice dialing 911. When they do it correctly, they will hear a conversation between a young child and an emergency worker. This is intended to show how to handle a 911 call correctly as the child is asked to describe the emergency and provide his address. He is then asked to leave the house and wait for help to arrive.
Birthday parties include a guided tour of the museum as well as a presentation in the Safety Theater, a craft, pizza, and soft drink.
The giant screen theater at the Cradle of Aviation is available as an add-on.
The gift shop provides a variety of firefighting memorabilia and educational books as well as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
The Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center
1 Davis Avenue
Garden City, NY 11530
Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm; July–August open 7 days
Adults $5, children $4