We had a field trip yesterday to a fire station, thanks to an organizer from a local homeschool group. These are always fun for the kids, and this trip taught me a few things as well.
First up was a video, Be Cool About Fire Safety, which you can watch on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2. A few key points that my crew remembered were:
- Don’t touch matches or lighters, tell a grown-up if you find them
- Make a fire escape plan and a meeting place outside
- Stop, Drop, and Roll if your clothes catch fire, covering your facew with your hands
- Check that your house has enough smoke alarms in the right places (in each bedroom and hallway, near — but not in — the kitchen, in living areas — living room, playroom, etc. — and in the attic)
- Fall & Crawl: if there is smoke in the house, get down on the floor and crawl out
Along with a great tour of the fire station and the ladder and rescue trucks, we got to experience their ‘smoke trailer’, set up to resemble a miniature 2-story house. The kids (and a few adults) sat up in the ‘bedroom’ and then artifical smoke (stage fog) started filling the room. When the smoke alarm sounded, we all practiced scooting down the stairs and crawling to the front door.
The firefighters told us that once we make our plan, we should practice it, sometimes even in the middle of the night to be sure the smoke alarm will wake the kids (if not, there are alarms available that will play a recording in a parents’ voice). They emphasized to the kids that they should not stop or go back inside for anything, not toys, pets, not even for their favorite stuffed animal. You can leave doors or windows open so that pets can get out. No one should stay inside to try putting out the fire either. The first priority is to get out, then call 9-1-1 from a cellphone or a neighbor’s house and gather at the meeting spot so that you and the firefighters know that there isn’t anyone still inside.
If someone is in an upstairs bedroom and cannot get out, open a window and throw toys, clothes, or anything else that is nearby out the window. When firefighters walk around the house, this will be a signal that someone is trapped in the room above.
In making the escape plan, parents should identify two exits from each bedroom, think about the shortest way out and explain to children how to kick or push out a window or screen. Upstairs bedrooms should have an escape ladder handy, and kids should practice using it. For a real test, try crawling out of the house from your bedroom at night with no lights on, or even while blindfolded!
Toward the end of the tour, one of the firefighters put on all of his gear including an air tank and mask. He looked frightening, and sounded like Darth Vader! This was to help make a final important point to the little ones: if you hear the smoke alarm or see a firefighter, even if they look scary like this guy, don’t hide!
A house fire is not something that anyone likes to think about, but knowing what to do can save the lives of you and your family. If you haven’t had a fire station tour like this, call (the non-emergency number) and find out if you can set up a date for a group of friends or even have a tour just for your family.