Fire! Is your family safe?

Consider the following scenarios:

  • The flames are rolling, the smoke is filling your home, and your 6 year-old and 8 year-old are inside with the main door blocked.  Do they know what to do?
  • Dinner caught fire on the stove top, and your daughter, age 16, happens to be in the kitchen. The extinguisher is under the sink; but does she know where it is, whether to use it, and if so, how?
  • It’s the middle of the night and smoke detectors are going off; does your family have a plan?

We all hope that none of the above situations ever materialize for any of us. However, it is reported that over 110 house fires occur daily in the United States, resulting in several deaths and even more injuries, especially in children. Many of these are preventable, and with the proper information and by spending a little bit of time with your children this week, you can take certain precautions that could keep your own family safe by preventing a fire from happening, or knowing what to do in the event of a fire.

October is Fire Safety month, and we at Great Lakes Bay Moms want to make sure we do our part to help your family stay safe. You can check out last week’s “Lesson Planning Mommy” article focused solely on fire safety books, songs, and information you can review with your little ones.  You can also tune into NBC TV25 on Monday from 5-7am for this week’s morning show segment, where you can see me highlight some of the basic things you need to know about keeping your family safe, while making it fun!

The prospect of a house fire can be terrifying to a small child. I should know; I have the “blessing” of being the subject of a family joke — er, story — retold countless times for its endearing humor but also to make this very point.  When I was a little girl, approximately 1st grade, we covered fire safety in school. I went home frightened that day, so I decided to cut out a little-girl sized hole in the screen of my bedroom window with my blunt safety scissors, so that if I needed to get out, I would have an escape route. Well… needless to say, when my mom & dad discovered the hole, they weren’t very pleased – but, they understood how scary the idea of a fire can be. However, no matter what age you are, the prospect of a house fire does not have to be terrifying. By mentally preparing yourself and your family for what to do in the case of an emergency, discussing it calmly, and practicing it every so often, you are likely to do away with the stress and fear and replace it with a healthy preparedness every family needs.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare and stay safe:

1) Install working smoke detectors in your home. Test them monthly at minimum, and replace the batteries at least twice per year (recommended: at daylight savings time in the Spring and Autumn).

2) Post emergency numbers near the phones, and teach your children how and when to use these numbers. Go through the motions of calling (without actually calling — many emergency responders are required to show up even if you assure them there isn’t one). It has been found that people often forget even how to dial the numbers 9-1-1 when they are in a panic.

3) Fire extinguishers are great, but only if you are able to get to them safely and use them properly. A general rule for fire extinguishers is to keep them near a potential fire source (fireplace, kitchen, etc.) and have at least one on every floor and one every 2500 square feet.

4) Fire can engulf a house in minutes or even seconds; make sure all family members know what to do in case of a fire. Draw a floor plan with two or more ways of escaping every room. Choose a safe meeting place outside the house. Practice evacuating the house regularly. Teach children (and adults) to stay low to the ground, and to not attempt to save pets or valuables.

5) Get to know a firefighter! Young children in a fire are in danger of running away from instead of toward the big scary person in the yellow suit who is actually trying to rescue them. Your child needs to be familiar with what a firefighter looks like, and to know the person is not scary but is a friend.

Remember, this list is not all-inclusive! In order for you to stay safe in the event of a fire, it is important to do your own research, to learn exactly what your family needs to do. Go to the US Fire Safety website and the US Fire Safety for Kids for some great information. Also, local fire departments often have a designated person who will volunteer to come into your school or other community organization and talk about fire safety. Contact your local fire department to learn more and get to know these wonderful people who are there to help our community.

Michelle Mersy, C.P.C. is the mother of two wonderful children (who, thankfully, have NOT cut a hole in the screen of their bedroom window), and a certified Life and Parenting Coach. She affirms, “Stop just wishing things could be different. They can be, if YOU do something different. Coaching will make that difference.”

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