The following is by editor Kara Fleck.
As 2011 dawned on us last January, I set some goals for my family in the new year: to become local tourists and really get to know the area in which we live, to break out of our food rut, and to practice regular monthly home fire drills.
Today I am checking in with one of those goals, the monthly home fire drill.
The Goal: a Monthly Drill
As I said in January, we began doing monthly home fire drills last fall, but it is important to keep up this practice every month. It isn’t pleasant to think about a fire, of course, and I don’t want to perpetuate a fear, but I also want my family to be prepared, just in case.
We actually began this practice in October, during Fire Safety Month. I’m proud of us for continuing. During the Winter months, it was tempting to just skip it, but we worked at it and have kept the habit so far.
At-Home Fire Drill Goals
A few of my goals for our home fire drill:
- To come up with two different escape routes
- To stress that we need to get out and then stay out!
- Learning why we need to crawl low under smoke, and then practicing our crawling
- Checking doors for heat before opening them
- Assigning a meeting place once outside
- Calling 9-1-1 after we are out of the house
- Setting off the smoke alarm so we can hear what it sounds like
- Checking the batteries in our smoke detectors
- Practicing our fire drill – not just talking about it, but actually doing it
Surprises and Unforeseen Challenges
Some aspects of our fire drill seem to come pretty naturally to the kids and are becoming second habit. But there are some other issues that are concerning to me.
The Fire Alarm
We hit the “test” button on our smoke detector so that the kids hear the sound of the actual alarm, even if only briefly. I was pleasantly surprised that it did not take long at all for even my two year old to associate that sound with “fire drill.” In fact, if someone happens to set off the smoke detectors when cooking, the kids first reaction is always to think we’re having a drill.
However, the sound of the alarm is really loud and piercing (as a smoke detector alarm should be) and there is definitely a bit of fear in the eyes of the kids when it is tested and then a visible relief when the sound stops. I understand, as I hate the sound, too.
I don’t have confidence that hearing the sound for a prolonged period of time, as they would in a real fire, wouldn’t led them to panic, especially in my younger two. I suspect the sound might scare them so much they forget what steps to take.
I have been fairly impressed with how well the kids remember concepts like “stop, drop, and roll” and to touch the doors to see if they feel hot before opening them. However, this memory seems to be better collectively, with my oldest usually reminding the others what to do. We may not all be together in a real fire situation.
I’ve also been struck by the things that they forget from month to month as we practice this. Sometimes not everyone can remember our outside meeting place. The nine year old does well with this, and the two year old I don’t expect to be remember every time, but I was surprised that my four year old doesn’t always remember.
Sometimes a kid will forget not to stop to put on shoes, or even that we never, ever go back inside for any reason. That they forget these things from month to month has been a wake-up call to me. Clearly, a once a year practice drill during Fire Safety Month is not enough.
Doing these monthly drills, seeing what the kids remember each time and what they forget, is showing me that it is a good thing we’re practicing. Granted, I hope we never need to use this experience in a real life situation, but I can see the value of being prepared and fire drills are something that need to happen on a regular basis in order to stay fresh in the minds of my kids and become a habit.
Do you practice monthly home drills? Or other preparedness drills – earthquake, tornado?