Stop, drop, and what? Fire Safety for Your Family (and Mine Too)

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So, I was originally going to save this topic for October, which is National Fire Safety Month; however, after a visit to the fire station with my son’s Cub Scout Den my mind was changed. The post I was originally working on can wait. The fire station tour and information session with our local firefighters was awesome, the boys in the den had a wonderful time and they learned something. From a parent’s perspective it’s a win-win situation! However, my emergency management side realized something during the presentation. Many of the firefighters’ safety questions were going unanswered. These safety questions were things like “Do you have a family meeting point outside of your house if you needed to escape? Does everyone know what to do if your clothes catch on fire? If there is a fire outside of your room what steps should you take?” Even my own son couldn’t answer some of these (though to his credit and possibly mine, he knew what to do if he was on fire he was all over that Stop, Drop, and Roll).

As I thought more about the fire station visit I wondered why my son didn’t  know the answers. I am an Emergency Manager after all, and we did talk about this…had I failed them in some way? Then I remembered the last time we sat down as a family and talked about how to evacuate our house if needed was around 9 months ago when we first moved in…more than enough time had passed for that information to leave my seven year old’s mind. So guess what is on the family calendar this evening? If you guessed family fire safety meeting, you’re right! These are a lot more fun than they sound.

Our family meetings are not formal at all. They normally happen around the dinner table. I will start the conversation about whatever safety topic I think is needed. Recently, we have talked about tornadoes and stranger danger. To keep my kids engaged, I try to make it more of a question and answer session. I will ask a question and let them respond. I really enjoy the creative responses they come up with (sometimes in seriousness because they are unaware of the right action or answer or sometimes in silliness because that’s how we roll as a family). If they don’t know, we find the answer together and determine why that is the best answer. After dinner comes what may be their favorite part…the practice drills. Whatever scenario we discussed we then put into practice. I encourage you to try this with your family as well.

Here are the questions I will be asking my family for fire safety night. You are more than welcome to use them too, or create your own!

If there was a fire in our house, where is our safe meeting point away from the house? (This should be at a specific space like a park near your house, the neighbors fence or the drive way across the street etc.)

What are all the possible exits in our home? (all doors and windows leading to the outside)

If there is a fire in the hallway outside your door what should you do? (They should close their door and take clothes to seal the space between the floor and the door, and then open their window.)

Once we are out of the house who do we call? (911)

If you are the only one at the meeting spot what should you do? (Go immediately to a neighbor’s house to call 911. I recommend you have a designated neighbor preferably someone you and your family know, never go back in to a structure on fire.)

If you could not escape the house what should you do? (Stay in their rooms open their windows and yell or climb out if they can, encourage them to be visible not hidden.)

If your clothes catch on fire what should you do? (Stop, Drop, and Roll)

If the house is on fire should we make sure we grab our favorite toy? (No, get out immediately.)

After the Q&A session and after dinner is all cleaned up we put into practice what we discussed, aka a drill! My husband or I would yell “FIRE!” (One time we even managed to get the smoke detector to go off in our previous house, it was super sensitive! So if you can do that awesome, if not make up your own notification.) Then escape. We make it a challenge to see who can get to the safe spot the quickest. This is the one time I encourage my children to climb out their windows if possible. After meeting at the safe zone, we do it one more time with the only difference being that they need to escape differently than before; this is to acclimate them to different escape routes in our home. As we walk back to our home we talk about what worked well and what may have taken longer. Then we go about life as normal. However, over the next few days at random times when I have the captive audience of my family, I will bring up little tid bits here and there about our recent safety talk. My hope is that it will stick with them until the next time we practice.

Here are a few more helpful tips:

  1. If you live in a multiple level home you may want to invest in a fire safety ladder for each bedroom upstairs that has a window. These fit over the window-well of an open window and unroll so that people can climb down.
  2. Have a fire extinguisher in your home, preferably near the kitchen. Make sure your fire extinguisher is certified and not expired.
  3. Working smoke alarms. If you forgot to check your batteries with the daylight saving time changes (or live in one of those awesome states without time change) no worries do it today!

I encourage you to hold a  fire safety session with your own family, it doesn’t have to be at the dinner table; make it to fit your family and their style! So when is a fire safety session going on your family calendar?  

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