This week has been Fire Safety Week in our home. On Sunday, the local fire department had an open house (which just happened to work perfectly with my plans for the week!), so we took the kids there first to let them see the fire trucks up close, and talk to the firemen there at the station. This was a great way to start the week!
I’ve talked to the kids before about what to do in case of a fire, but we’ve never really practiced it. And I’ve never showed them how to get out of the house on their own. I wasn’t sure at what age it would be wise to teach them how to get out… you don’t want a toddler practicing in the middle of the night! It really depends on the child and his/her maturity level. My oldest daughter is now 7, so I feel she is fully responsible enough to learn to get out if she has to, and to help her siblings out as well.
It was incredibly important to me that I teach my kids how to get out on their own, and not wait for somebody to rescue them. There may be a day when tragedy strikes, and nobody is able to help. Empowering them with the knowledge of how to take matters into their own hands could save their lives.
The first thing I did was sit both Ty (age 3) and Jada (age 7) on the floor of Jada’s bedroom, and we talked about fires. We discussed what causes fires, and the importance of not playing with matches. We talked about the dangers of unattended candles, food cooking on the stove, fireplaces, campfires, damaged electrical cords, etc. I told the kids a story of how my step-brother once was playing with matches in the bathroom. He thought it was fun to light toilet paper on fire and watch how quickly it was consumed. But one time the blaze went so quickly that it caught his fingers, and he dropped the burning paper. The bathroom rug caught on fire and we had to think very quickly to get the fire out before it spread. The lesson was that playing with a fire can be very dangerous, and get out of control very quickly.
Next, I asked the children if they could tell me how they would know there was a fire. Smoke, and the smoke alarm would be going off. Good! I explained that if this happens during the day, it won’t be as dangerous ’cause we would quickly discover the fire and be able to get out. But what we need to be prepared for is if a fire happens while we are sleeping. We all climbed onto Jada’s bed and pretended to go to sleep.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! (That was me, being the smoke detector)
“Quick! Wake up! There’s a fire!”
I explained to the kids that smoke was thick in the air, and that we needed to try our best not to breath the smoke. I cautioned that most people who die in house fires, die from breathing in too much smoke before the fire ever reaches them. We got down low on the floor, and crawled to her closed bedroom door.
Next, we felt the door with our hand to see if it was hot. I explained that if the door is hot, do NOT open it, there is a fire on the other side. I showed the kids how to stuff a blanket under the door to block the smoke from entering the room. If the door is hot, then the only exit is through the bedroom window.
We went on to pretend that the door was not hot. We carefully opened it and quickly crawled to Ty’s room next door. I explained to Jada that if she was able, I wanted her to go to Ty and wake him up and help him escape. I told her that I did not expect her to try to get baby Xia (that’s too much responsibility), I would get the baby, I just wanted her to focus on getting herself and Titus out, since Ty could walk on his own. But Jada protested this idea. She said, “But I might lose my only sister! I want to get her!” So, I allowed that if she thought she’d be able to (which I truly do think she is), then she could try. We practiced her escaping helping only Ty, and then escaping helping Xia and Ty.
I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to open the windows without a chair, especially since we use child safety locks. But to my surprise, and relief, she was tall enough to reach up on her own and undo the child safety locks, unlock the standard window locks, and slide the window up.
I advised that, if she could remember it, it would be good for her to throw a blanket out the window first. Most likely, it would be cold outside at night, and she would need something to wrap her and her brother up in to stay warm while they wait for help. We grabbed a blanket and threw it out the window.
Next, I instructed her and Ty that I wanted them to climb out of the window. We chose his room for the escape because his window is not as high off the ground as hers is. I went outside the house to help Jada if she needed it. I told her I wanted her to go first so that she could help Ty down next. She was very brave, though hesitant at first. She was able to find footing on an outdoor electrical box, which helped her lower herself to the ground. Next it was Ty’s turn.
Titus was a bit more nervous. Although his window is only about 4 ft. off the ground, it probably looked much farther down than that to him. We encouraged him though, and once he got his leg over the windowsill and began to lower himself out of the window, Jada was able to wrap her arms around his waist and help him the rest of the way down.
We grabbed the blanket and ran to the edge of the woods which is to be the designated meeting spot. I explained that it is very, very important that they go to this spot, and not anywhere else. I told Jada that if I did not find them in this meeting place, that I would go back into the burning house to look for them, so do NOT hide anywhere else!
We also talked about the importance of not looking for a toy to save before leaving the house, and to NEVER go back into a burning house. Never. We discussed “Stop. Drop. And Roll.” as well.
When finished outside, we went back indoors and I let Jada practice rescuing Xia using a doll. We talked over different scenarios, and how to handle them. After the drill, we went back to Jada’s room and sat down to talk about everything they’d learned. I explained that I do not want them to fear a house fire. The chances are very rare that it will happen. I likened it to our food storage. We do not sit up at night worrying that something will happen and we won’t be able to get food. But we prepare for it, just in case. The same goes with fires. We do not worry about it happening, but we need to have a plan and know what to do just in case it ever was to happen.
It was a very good exercise. I think Jada especially feels empowered. And I am relieved to know that she would know what to do if her father or I were not able to help them. We will practice escaping the house a few times so that they are comfortable with the procedure, especially Ty.
If you don’t already have a plan set in place, I’d encourage you to not hesitate in teaching your children what to do and where to meet if you are ever caught in a house fire.