October is National Fire Safety Month, so before we extinguish the month, I wanted to make my personal plea to all the mommies who, like the old me, heed the warnings of fire safety and prevention with lackluster intensity.
Chances are that in the last few weeks you’ve probably see public service materials coming home with the kids, snapped pictures of your preschoolers meeting the local firefighters, and heard the weather forecasters reminding you to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. I listened about as attentively as any mother of four listens to the warnings of fire safety. That is to say, I never thought I’d have to actually use any of those critical tips I had heard year after year. But I also never imagined that tragedy could strike so close to home.
Five years ago, I was living the life of a busy mom with two babies 14 months apart. Our household was a delightful buzz of baby toys and babbling tots. We were busy changing diapers, feeding kids, bathing babies, trying to fit in everyone’s bedtime stories, and, if my husband and I were lucky, finding that spare moment at the end of the day to count our blessings and admire our growing little family.
But then, my neighbors--- the home that shared the fence with my own nest and all my little chickens within it - had a fire. Not a little kitchen fire, or quick-grab-a-water-bottle fire, but a house-burning-down-to-the-ground, loss-of-life, raging fire.
I am still working on healing from this life changing experience. As those flames roared that night, as my own husband begged to rush in, as I stood witness to the fragility to human life and the ruthlessness of nature, I became acutely aware of what is in my control… and what is wildly out of my control.
Since that fateful night, I have worked to conquer my fears the only way I know how – by preparing for the worst, and praying for the best. I listened intently to the warnings heard throughout the month, as I have for the last five years, and urge all of you to do the same.
For this week’s Top Ten, I’ve gathered some of those all-important fire safety tips and hope that before we light the jack-o-lanterns this Thursday, you’ll take every step possible to ensure the safety of those you love.
- Check your windows, especially if you live in an older home. Windows that have been painted to the point where they are difficult to open present a fire hazard.
- Set off the alarm. If a fire alarm sounding is the way you know dinner is ready, then chances are your kids know the sound. But plenty of children wouldn’t know what to do if they heard the alarm because they haven’t heard it before. Set off the alarm and let your children know what it signals – and what they should do next.
- Have a family plan. Over the years crisis planning has become incredibly important in schools and business. Your home is even more important! Children need to know how to evacuate the house and where to go. Our family has a designated neighbor’s front porch on the opposite side of the street. Kids need to know that they need to get out – even if it means they are going alone. They must be instructed to leave their home without stopping for anything.
- Have a fire drill. Kids are well-accustomed to fire drills at school and if you’ve ever seen one in person, it is quite impressive. In a matter of mere seconds, schools manage to safely evacuate hundreds of young children. There is great confidence in knowing what to do should the alarm sound. Practice, practice, practice.
- Buy a fire extinguisher. Most home fires start in the kitchen. Having the equipment to quickly eliminate flames could save your home from total devastation. You can buy one online for as little as $30.
- Choose Halloween costumes wisely. Long flowing gowns, capes, and wigs can become a real hazard among lighted Jack-o-lanterns.
- Have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Some experts recommend one in every room, but at very least, one must be on every floor.
- The detector is only as good as the batteries in it. Check your smoke detectors monthly and change batteries no less than twice a year.
- If your children sleep on the second floor of your home, purchase rope ladders and teach your children to use them.
- Have a plan with your spouse. If you are like me with young children at home, you’ll need to know who is grabbing which child to make the most of every last second. Talking to the kids about your plan is critical, but so is talking with your spouse.