There are several things all families should do on a regular basis to be prepared in the event of a fire:
Fire escape plans for the family
- Come up with a primary and secondary escape plan for each member of the family, and go over it with your children. The first way should be out of their bedroom door and to the nearest main level door in the house that leads outside. A secondary plan should be another way in case the primary path is blocked. Practice two different ways out from every room in the house.
- Have a predetermined meeting place outside of your home, so that in the event of a fire, everybody can go there and be accounted for. This is not only for the safety of your children, but also for the safety of firefighters. Firefighters have been killed entering fires to find a child, only to discover the child has been out of the house the entire time, but simply ‘lost’ in the midst of all the commotion going on. Make sure everyone knows where they should meet if there is ever a fire.
- Your escape plan needs to include a way for an adult to rescue younger children. Although it is quite possible that a three or four-year-old can rescue themselves, we would recommend that you plan to have an adult rescue all children younger than five. Teach them how to get out on their own, but plan so that your escape route swings by the child’s room and then exit from there. If you have more than one young child, assign each adult a child to rescue. Just like your regular escape route, you should find two ways to get to that child in case one is blocked. If this means exiting the house and rescuing them from the outside, decide ahead of time how you would access their bedroom window, get it open, etc. Children who might have been rescued frequently perish because four or five minutes go by as adults fumble around outside the house trying to decide how to get to them. Planning for these variables ahead of time could mean the difference between life or death. Consider mounting a safety ladder outside your child’s bedroom window or keeping something nearby that can be accessed in an emergency. One way or another, have a plan for getting to your child’s bedroom in the event of a house fire.
- Consider the safety add-ons to your home contained in a later section of this chapter.
Fire drills and practicing your escape plan
Practice that escape route periodically throughout the year, having your children do the fire crawl and pretend it was a real fire. Teach them as many different ways out of their bedroom as possible. For extra fun, put a blindfold on to simulate what it would be like in a fire. Make sure they can still find their way around. Practice this often, the kids will have a fun time with it.
If you see a fire
Teach your children that if they ever see a fire, they should do the following:
- Tell them to scream “fire!” at the top of their lungs.
- Get out of the building immediately. Do not get things, do not look for people, just get out as fast as you can.
- DO NOT HIDE! Too many children have died trying to hide in a fire, especially children who accidentally started it themselves. Make sure that children understand: fire does not go away, it only gets bigger. They cannot hide from a fire, it will only get them. The only thing they can do to be safe is get out of the house.