Last week, my fear of fire was rekindled. A local radio station covered a news story of a two-year-old who had died the night before in a house fire one county over. It was one of those news stories that you want to turn off but the personal connection keeps you listening. The reporter was very matter-of-fact, no fluff built in to elaborate the dramatic side, but still, by the time I pulled into work, I had to wipe away tears. The reporter went on to give a couple of quick fire safety tips, one of them being to check your fire alarms once a week. Wow! Once a week? I thought that you were only supposed to check them once a year. It got me thinking. What else do I not know about fire safety?
It definitely wasn’t the first time I’ve thought about the possibility of a fire. As a mom and the only adult in the household, I often think about what I would do in the case of an emergency – especially fire. I have smoke detectors, a fire ladder, and a fire extinguisher, but with two small kids and a dog to think about, that doesn’t quite seem like enough. I knew I had to develop a well-thought-out and researched fire safety plan.
So, I set to work. It turns out there was a lot that I didn’t know about fire safety, and, the worst part, I had done nothing to prepare my kids. This had to be rectified. The best way to prepare for an emergency is to arm yourself with knowledge and have a plan. The confidence of knowing what to do is important. This is especially important for children who, I found out, are likely to hide in a closet in the event of a fire.
First, make sure your house is ready. That means make sure that you have all of the fire safety equipment that you need and that it is functional. Be sure to involve your kids in the installation and assembly of your fire safety equipment. They need to hear the fire alarm so that they know exactly what that sound means, where the escape ladders are, and how to use everything in the fire safety kit.
Essential Fire Safety Equipment
- Smoke Detector – One smoke detector needs to be inside and outside of each sleeping room. There should also be at least one on each level of the house. For the kitchen (or room with cooking appliances), the smoke detector should be located at least 10 feet from the appliances to reduce false alarms.
- Fire extinguisher – One should be located in the kitchen, garage, and in sleeping areas. They should be mounted 5 feet off the floor and away from any heat sources.
- Escape ladder – If you have a two-story house, these are essential for creating multiple escape routes.
- Baby carrier or a Baby Rescue – One in each sleeping room. I don’t have a Baby Rescue, but I have read great things about them. I keep a baby carrier that I am familiar with using.
- Fire Safety Kit – One in each sleeping room. Fire safety kits should contain:
- Check all the windows and doors in the house at least once a month to ensure that they easily open.
Now, let’s get to the plan:
- Get out a large piece of paper with your kids and have them draw a floor plan of your house. Try to guide them to make it as accurate as possible. If they are too little to get the drawing close, draw one alongside them. Next, mark at least two possible exits in each room. Hang the picture on the fridge as a reminder.
- Walk your house with your kids and physically identify two escape routes in each room. You can make this into a game. If you make it fun, they will likely want to play multiple times; that repetition will help in an emergency. The key is for your kids to remember the escape routes.
- As you move through the house, practice feeling the doors with the back of your hand.
- Practice setting up the escape ladder. It’s important that you know how to use it but also that your kids do. You can use a first-floor window for practice.
- Go outside and find a good meeting place. Pick a neighbor that you know is often home and let your kids know that they are to go to that house and have them call 911.
- Remind your kid several times that once they are safely outside they are not to go back inside for any reason. It’s helpful to list different scenarios so that there is no question about the answer. For example, “What if mom is still inside?” “What if your favorite blanket is inside?” etc. Be sure that they know the answer is always no and that the best way to help mom or their favorite blanket is to call 911. Have them repeat the answer back to you as a full sentence. Example, “I do not go back in the house to get my blanket.” Again, repetition will help for an emergency.
- Practice dialing 911. Draw a picture of a phone pad and have them put their fingers on the keys as they would if they were dialing. It’s one thing to know that you need to call 911 and another to dial it on a phone.
Practice the fire safety plan often. It’s important that you and your child feel very comfortable with it. This will build confidence that they know what to do and that they will be able to do it in case of an emergency.Building a child's confidence to handle an #emergency is one of the best tools you can give… Click To Tweet
In addition to the plan, there are other things about fire safety that your child needs to know and feel comfortable with.
- Stop, drop, and roll. If they catch fire, they need to know to stop, drop, and roll. Be sure to practice.
- Fall and crawl. Smoke rises. When escaping from a room, you need to get low to the ground and crawl. Be sure to practice.
- It is important for your child to feel comfortable with firemen in full gear. It can be a pretty scary sight to have a large, alien-looking adult reaching out to grab you. You don’t want them moving away from the firemen in an emergency. Call the local fire department and see if they will do a tour, or find a community event that they will be attending in their gear. We have a local Easter egg hunt that they always attend with their fire truck. Be sure to have them try on the hat with mask for your child to see exactly what it looks like.
Our children are the most valuable things in our lives, and it is important to keep them safe and build their skills to keep themselves safe. We focus a lot of attention on building their confidence as a person. It is equally important to build their confidence in their ability to handle emergency situations.
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