I never understood the importance of having, implementing and practicing a fire escape plan with your children until recently. I run a home daycare and one requirement is a monthly fire escape plan practice. I have to admit that inwardly I rolled my eyes and dragged my feet as my thought was, “If a fire were to start I would be in the same room as the kids and obviously they would try to escape it.” So I halfheartedly came up with a meeting place thinking that was the most important piece. I talked to the kids about if a fire happened we were to get outside and meet at our front tree. However, I knew that we needed to actually practice it.
Gathering the children together near the front door, I talked through what we were going to do and told them when the fire alarm sounded we were to quickly exit the front door and meet at the front tree. I pushed the button just to give them an idea of what sound we were listening for. Everyone covered their ears and started giggling.
“Ok guys, this is going to be the real practice! When the fire alarm sound happens, let’s go out the front door!” I pressed the button and my 5 year old daughter led the pack out to the tree. I began counting all of my heads and came up with one missing. Surely not! We were steps away from the door, where could they have gone? So I look again and realize my three year old son is missing. I glance around the yard thinking maybe he thought it would be funny to go elsewhere. Nope, nowhere in sight.
I head inside calling “Landon!” Nothing. I begin checking the rest of the house when I catch a glimpse of two little feet sticking out behind our big rocking chair in the basement. There was my little guy, face down on the floor covering his ears.
My son had been afraid of the loud noise of the alarm and his first instinct, despite the fact that I was standing right next to him, was to run to the basement and hide behind a chair.
I could only imagine how this scenario could have ended horrifically if this had been the real thing.
If you’re anything like me, the idea of a fire escape plan has flitted through your mind as something that would be great to do if you had the time. In my own head, I had hastily evaluated exits but never a strategy and I most certainly hadn’t communicated anything to my kids.
So how does one even begin?
Here are 5 everyday small things you could do to prepare for a fire escape.
1. Make a simple drawing of your house and draw out a route. Include your kids in this process!
2. Choose an outdoor meeting place (i.e. neighbor’s house, tree, mailbox, etc.) a safe distance in front of your house where everyone can meet. Remember to include this location on your escape plan.
3. Talk through what the fire alarm sound means and what you should do if you hear it.
4. Practice. Practice. Practice. With the alarm. Every few months, press the alarm without telling your kids so they can practice how to process the situation. One daycare provider shared that she cut out large pictures of fire and puts them in different exits so the kids have to practice going different directions if one way is blocked.
5. Once a year, do a practice drill during the night. NFPA suggests preparing children by telling them that a practice alarm will be happening when they sleep as this helps them master the drill and not fear it. Did you know that children tend to sleep through a fire alarm? Check out this video. Eye opening!
Earlier this week, our dishwasher lost all power which made it a sad day in our household. The electrician came to check it out and he found a corroded wire in the back that had completely melted the cap and could have caused more damage. Seriously scary! Just another reminder that you never know what could happen and being prepared is important.
Do you have an emergency plan in place? Comment below sharing what your family does.