Most kids love fire drills. I did when I was a student. It's an unexpected break from the routine. You get to leave your schoolwork on the desk and head outside, hopefully into the sunshine. It just seems like so much fun.
But, we all know, it's more than that. It's insurance against the possibility of a real fire. The drills become routine and in the case of an emergency each and every child and teacher knows exactly what to do. And that saves lives.
Children spend a lot of time at school. Think about it: 200 days a year and about six hours a day.
But they spend an awful lot more time at home. And are we preparing them for the possibility of a fire in the home?
Just like at school, you need to have some drills. Determine the safest and quickest way out of the house from all rooms. Then take a look to develop a secondary route in case the first choice is unsafe. Practise with the kids. You also want to choose a meeting place outside.
Get your kids involved in your escape plan. The kids can draw a map of the home showing all the doors and windows and then visit each room to figure out two exits. Have the kids check to make sure all the windows and doors open easily so you can use them to get outside.
It's also important that your house address number is easily readable from the street, and if you have a lane in the back it's a good idea to have your address clearly shown there. This will not only be useful in the case of fire but any other emergency such as one requiring an ambulance or police. Of course, being easy to find also makes it simpler for delivery vehicles of all kinds.
Smoke alarms save lives. It's essential to have alarms outside all bedrooms and ensure that they each have a working battery. They are the wake-up call at night and will give you an early warning so that you will be able to make it outside to safety if there is a fire.
One of the challenges of fire safety and children is that fire is fascinating. Make sure you talk to them about the dangers of misusing fireworks or sparklers. They are fun but require adult supervision and care.
Besides having the kids involved in the fire drills, you can recruit them to help check the safety of the house. Give them a list and let them take the lead in being the family fire inspector.
Have them check all electrical cords to ensure that they are not frayed or broken. Make sure there are smoke alarms and that the batteries are in working order.
They need to see that anything that can burn like paper or cloth is away from the stovetop or from any portable heaters. And an adult should turn off any portable heaters whenever they are not in the room. Check the dryer vent and lint trap. These are places we rarely think of but the accumulation of lint with the heat of the dryer can flare up.
Have your kids check with you to make sure that the furnace and the chimney are inspected regularly.
When they take the lead they will be learning more than if we just check things out on our own. They will also take some ownership of family fire safety.
So one day, eight-year-old Evan will come to tell you that an electrical cord looks frayed or that the curtains in the living room are blowing close to a portable heater.
Then all family members will be aware of fire safety.
. Tri-Cities resident Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home.