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While we're busy decking the halls and cooking holiday meals, we might not think about putting together a safety plan. Nearly half of families say they do not practice escape plans, if they have one, and report that kids do not know what to do in the event of a fire. That's bad news at a time when home fire risks increase due to use of candles and fireplaces, as well as all that extra holiday baking and roasting.
Most of us regularly experience fire drills at work and at school, so why not at home? Thankfully, deaths from structure fires have steadily declined, but fire is still the third leading cause of preventable death for children under 15. So taking those safety lessons home is just common sense. They say practice makes perfect, and you don't want to wait for a real emergency to test your family escape plan. You don't even have to wait for Home Fire Drill Day to start.
With my two preschoolers, I started with resources from our local library. Ours had a safety corner with books about first responders and fire safety. Since my 3-year-old, like most little boys, adores fire trucks as well as library books, it was an easy place to start.
We talked about what we would do if there was ever a fire in our home, and my little redheads offered ideas and solutions with minimal prompting, discussing what might be the right move in various scenarios. For us, the books were a great way to address safety without making it preachy or forced. The stories also imparted lessons, such as never playing with fire and making sure to run outside instead of trying to hide from flames.
Earlier this fall, fire stations in our area welcomed families to a weekend open house, with a fun opportunity for kids to visit firefighters and those shiny trucks up close. Among the free popcorn, bounce houses and trying out the fire hose were lessons about calling 911 and a practice run at crawling through a room filled with pretend smoke. Talking about what it's like to experience a fire is one thing, but getting on all fours to crawl through thick smoke makes it real and memorable.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a fire can spread quickly, leaving only a minute or two to escape. In an actual emergency, when time is of the essence, I want to ensure my kids know what to do, especially if I'm not there to prompt them. I know they were paying attention, because now every time they hear the smoke detector go off, they run to ask, "Is it time to call 911?"
So while you're making memories this holiday season, give your family the gift of preparedness. Make your holidays safer by reducing the risk of decoration fires. Check that your smoke alarms are working properly. Put together an escape plan and practice it, twice a year at least. Make it a family tradition. If the unexpected happens, you'll be happy you did.