A house fire is one of my greatest fears when it comes to my family, and especially my young son. Fire is powerful and uncontrollable, and absolutely deadly. Just thinking about it sets off waves of panic – but not of uncertainty.
That’s because we have a fire evacuation plan. We have fire protection and practice prevention. Does your family?
Basic Fire Prevention
For me, good parenting is a tightrope walk: I want to give my son the freedom to fall and scrap his knees – to learn how to get back up again – but I also want to protect him from serious dangers while he learns these life lessons. When he’s old enough (he’s only 1.5), fire prevention will be much the same: I will teach him to respect the flame, and will arm him with knowledge (not paranoia) of the awesome power of fire. And then, of course, I’ll school him in prevention and what to do in case of an emergency.
You don’t need to terrify your kids into fire prevention. Kids are natural collaborators, and they want to help you do what you do. So let them in on your fire prevention preparations: Give them the responsibility of pressing smoke alarm tester buttons, or checking the gauge on your fire extinguishers.
Fire Protocol for Kids
There are many great ways to teach children fire safety, and some of them you’ll probably remember from your own childhood. (Stop, drop and roll!) Check out our full list of fire prevention tips for kids, and be sure to drill these skills at least a few times per year.
Fire Escape Route
Yesterday we talked about creating a general home safety plan, but today I want to touch on the specifics of a fire escape route. Here’s what we have going on in my house:
You know that your doors open and shut normally, but you need to do regular checks of your windows – a primary escape route in case of fire. Many elements, like humidity or a recent repaint, may make it hard (or nearly impossible) to open your windows. Do a regular check (once a month works over here) to verify your window situation.
If your kids sleep on an upper level, you need to get a roll-up escape ladder for their room(s). Even more, you need to practice climbing down the ladder. Unless your kid’s a daredevil (mine’s nicknamed Evel Knievel!), she’ll probably be scared to climb down a swinging, unfamiliar rope ladder – especially if she’s already panicking about a house fire. Drilling her climbing skills in advance will help her stay calm and safe as she descends to safety during an emergency.
Double Escape Route
As you work up your fire evacuation plan, you need to develop at least two safe routes out of your home: one primary and one alternative, in case the primary is unsafe. Note that the primary route from your bedroom is probably different than the preferred evacuation from your kids’ rooms. Don’t confuse your children with options; instead, only focus on their individual plans. If they’re on the younger side, do an arts & crafts project to create an escape route diagram. Their fire plan should live in their bedroom, somewhere they can easily grab during a fire.
Twin Meeting Spots
The final element to your evacuation route is your outdoor meeting spot. You’re going to need two again, in case your preferred location is unsafe. This area can be anywhere on your property – the front sidewalk is good, for example, because that’s where the fire trucks will arrive – but you can also choose a trusted neighbor’s home. Whatever works for your circumstances and family.
Finally, arm your family with these basic fire safety supplies:
- Flashlights: One per bedroom and at least one per floor
- Towels: One set per bedroom, to prevent smoke from seeping in under doors and windows
- Cotton Shirt/Blanket: One per person, in the bedroom, to cover your nose and mouth to prevent smoke inhalation
- Bright Cloth: One per bedroom, to wave so the fire department can spot you easily
- Smoke Detectors: One per bedroom and at least one per floor
- Fire Extinguisher: At least one per floor
Looking for more fire safety information? Check out our comprehensive guide to Fire Safety for Kids.
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