Even with the prevalent safety features and responsive modern fire departments of today, home fire safety is still essential. The smallest errant spark can spread through a home in minutes, and if caught unprepared, children and adults alike may not know how to respond. Thankfully, if you follow the five steps below, you can prepare your family on how to react should a fire ever occur in your home.
1. How to Prevent
As with all dangers, prevention is the most invaluable measure. Be sure your children have age-appropriate understandings of how to safely handle – or not handle – all potential sources of fire. Possible ignition sources range from electronics and power plugs to appliances (especially ovens and cooktops) to matches and lighters. Keep dangerous materials locked away from younger children and avoid demonstrating their use (such as lighting matches) in their presence so they don’t learn to imitate. Older children may be trusted with instructions on how to operate a home fire extinguisher if present.
2. How to Recognize & React
Educate children on how to recognize and respond to a fire. They should be familiarized with the sound of the home’s smoke detectors as well as the implications of smelling smoke or seeing flames. Younger children who need help escaping a fire should be taught to call for help and not hide so as to make it as easy as possible to locate them.
3. How to Escape
Escaping a fire isn’t always simple with the possibility of heavy smoke and blocked exits. Children should know two escape routes from every room and how to use them, including windows if necessary. Home fire ladders (available online or from home improvement or department stores) may be necessary to provide a second route of escape from upper-floor rooms. Staying low to the floor to avoid smoke and testing doorknobs for heat to detect a fire on the other side are also important skills for escape.
4. Where to Meet
Have a prearranged meeting place for all family members to go after escaping. This makes it evident as soon as possible as to who is safe and who may still need to be rescued. A safe, familiar location away from the house is ideal. In regions with cold winters or harsh weather, a neighbor’s doorstep may be best.
5. How to Practice
Practice your plan with the whole family and be sure to update it as necessary. Switching children to new bedrooms, making modifications to the house (such as different windows or a new addition) or moving to a new home entirely are good reasons to refresh the plan.
With these steps mastered, you can be confident that your family can safely and effectively respond in the event of a fire.