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Learning safety with art

An ear, a hand and a smoke detector combined with the phrase "Test your detector _ It's sound advice" were all a Dunbar Elementary School pupil needed to produce a winning poster.

Katie Heckler's poster was chosen as the best one in a contest sponsored by the Hillsborough County and Tampa fire departments as part of Fire Prevention Week, which is this week. Katie said she wasn't really nervous when she collected her trophy for the winning poster Monday morning at the Hillsborough County Courthouse.

"I was just glad to be there and glad that I won," Katie said.

She competed against almost 300 students in 15 Hillsborough schools. This is the sixth year the contest has been held in Hillsborough County. The winning poster will be reproduced on a billboard at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Nebraska Avenue.

Angel Munroe of Lopez Elementary School and Sarah Lazzara of Dunbar Elementary School were runners-up. Angel and Sarah won personal stereos.

Katie, 12, is the youngest of three children of Richard and Alyce Heckler of Northdale.

First prize in the contest was a mountain bike, but Katie said she entered the contest to get her drawing on the billboard.

The billboard should be up by Oct. 15 and in place for at least two weeks, said Michael Sciuga, public education officer for the Hillsborough County Fire Department.

Katie said she's looking forward to seeing her artwork raised to new heights.

"I think it will be neat," she said.

Rick Weich, rescue supervisor for the Tampa Fire Department, said the poster contest and presentation of the winner on a billboard is a great way to reach younger children.

"When you get right down to it, safety is a simple thing," Weich said. "When you put it in one child's terms to another, it's like having one child talk to another."

Sciuga said Katie's poster was perfect, because its message about the importance of testing smoke detectors can be understood even if someone doesn't read the caption.

Katie drew an ear in the lower left-hand corner of the picture. She also drew a hand reaching from the upper right-hand corner of the picture to a smoke detector that was positioned in the center.

On top, she used the first half of the slogan, "Test your detector." Then, on the bottom, by the ear, she added, "It's sound advice."