Monday, July 15, 2013

FDNY Fire Zone: Bloody Marys and Fire Safety

Bloody Mary/Red Snapper, anyone?
I really should start every single day of the summer (or any season, for that matter) with a Bloody Mary. Of course, that might not always be feasible, but luckily, on a recent foray to the FDNY Fire Zone near Rockefeller Center, I did feel that it was my civic duty to start off our daily adventure with one since our day began with an early lunch at the King Cole Lounge at the St. Regis Hotel. We sat admiring Maxfield Parrish’s 1906 mural of Old King Cole of Mother Goose fame and imbibing Bloody Marys (aka Red Snappers), which apparently first made their stateside appearance at this very place.

A not-very-good picture of the Maxfield Parrish mural behind the bar at the King Cole Bar

After draining our Bloody Marys/Red Snappers, we made our way to the FDNY Fire Zone, a hands-on fire safety exhibit wedged into a block of West 51st Street down the street from Radio City Music Hall. Here we learned the difference between good fires and bad fires, that there are 11,227 firefighters in New York City (only 44 of which are women), and that last year, there were 57,000 fires in New York City. The kids also got to don bunker gear and hop aboard a real fire truck before we turned our attention to the fire safety presentation introduced and facilitated by a retired firefighter.

I include this picture because the name of the fireman giving the talk
is Ned and doesn't Fireman Ned sound straight out of a storybook about firemen?
Plus, Fireman Ned in his hood looks like an extra from Monty Python and the
Holy Grail

He started off his talk by sketching a scenario where the smoke detector in our home goes off in the middle of the night. He quizzed the kids on what they should do and showed them how to call 911 and what to tell the 911 dispatcher. The 911 call triggered an alarm in the firehouse and then he showed a video of a fireman responding to our call. The next part of the presentation took place in another room with a simulated fire scene including real life testimonies (and fake smoke, which I’m assuming was dry ice and which really wowed the eight and under set. For the next children’s birthday party, I might just get a cake and some dry ice and nothing else) where the kids learned how easily and quickly fires can start and how important it is to formulate a fire escape plan that can lead them to safety.

Hanging out in the back of the fire engine

Charlie and Vivi were all over this as only earnest eight- and six-year-olds can be and have brought up our family fire escape plan (or lack of one) roughly 1,398 times since our visit to the FDNY Fire Zone (their mantra: if it’s good to bring something up once, isn’t it even better to bring it up 1,397 more times?). Jack, however, was too young to take part, as the program was for ages five and older—no exceptions. If your kids are old enough, this is definitely worth a trip, especially combined with a Bloody Mary at the King Cole Bar beforehand and other Rockefeller Center sites, like the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, the Lego Store, and the Atlas sculpture by Lee Lawrie. If they aren’t yet five or if you have younger siblings in tow, the Fire Zone is doable if you tag-team with another parent, as I did, or you could opt instead for the Fire Zone’s sister museum downtown, The New York City Fire Museum, which is suitable for all ages (

King Cole Bar, St. Regis Hotel, 2 East 55th Street (@ Fifth Avenue), (212) 339-6721,, Open Monday to Saturday, 11:30 AM to 2:30 AM, Sunday 12:00 PM to 12:00 AM.

FDNY Fire Zone, 34 W. 51st Street (at Rockefeller Center, adjacent to Radio City Music Hall), (212) 698-4520,, Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Sunday 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Fire Simulation Presentations: Monday to Saturday 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, every hour on the half hour and about 30-40 minutes long, Sunday 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM; General Admission to the Fire Zone is free, but the fee for the fire simulation presentations is $6.00 per person.

  • Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
  • New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osbourne, paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

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