Little Red Helmet
Betsy McClain, Agency Education & Consulting
- Bachelor's Degree in Economics, Mississippi University for Women
- Years with The Hartford: More than 30
Betsy McClain was just 8 years old when she saved her 3-year-old brother's life.
The family was staying at their farmhouse in northern Alabama, and Betsy was put in charge of watching her little brother while their mother ran a quick errand. The two were in the kitchen where a fire was burning in the fireplace to warm the room on a February afternoon. Betsy was searching the cupboards for treats, as kids so often do when their parents aren't home to intervene, when she glanced over at her brother. She was horrified by what she saw.
“He was standing with his back to the fireplace and his jeans were on fire," Betsy said.
Miraculously, young Betsy knew exactly what to do, thanks to The Hartford's Junior Fire Marshal® (JFM) program.
“Before all this happened, an insurance agent had come to my third-grade class to talk about fire safety," Betsy said. “He explained that you do not throw water on someone who is burning. Preferably, you wrap them in a rug and smother the fire. He explained the drop-and-roll procedure. It made a real impression on me."
When Betsy saw her brother's pants on fire, she immediately recalled these life-saving instructions.
“I knew I had to smother the fire," she said. “My brother was standing on a rug and the rug was too heavy for me to pick up and wrap around him so I picked him up and basically started banging him against the rug to put the fire out. And it worked."
Her brother cried – startled and frightened – but he suffered no burns to his body.
“The insurance agent's presentation really made a difference," Betsy said. “Otherwise I would not have known what to do. I'm deeply grateful for that."
Today, Betsy praises the mission and accomplishments of The Hartford's JFM program, which teaches children the basics of fire prevention and safety. Since the program began in 1947, The Hartford has designated more than 110 million children as Junior Fire Marshals, equipping them with fire prevention kits and red fire helmets, and encouraging them to spread the word about fire safety to family and friends.
For Betsy, who as an elementary school student could have been a poster child for the JFM program, coming to work at The Hartford more than 30 years ago was like coming full circle.
“The JFM program was responsible for me saving my brother from what could have been a severe injury," she said, “and here I am back with The Hartford. The company reaches out to community on so many levels and the JFM program is one of them."
The program is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and Betsy has made a lifetime practice of spreading its life-saving message.
“I have children and friends with kids and grandchildren all around me," she said, “and I have passed on to all of them what I have learned."