We started doing home fire drills with our 3½ year old. I felt it was time to teach him what to do in case of a fire and learn to do those things without Mom and Dad being there to instruct him. Though it seems like a scary thing to teach, I feel it's essential.
I lived through a furnace fire a few years back and only by the grace of God did I survive. My dog woke me up as I was already being overcome with smoke. The smoke alarms were going off, but I didn't wake up till my dog jumped on me and started shoving his nose in my face. I owe that dog my life. I used to think I knew what to do in case of a fire, but I found out how hard it is to remember the right things without practicing them. When your adrenaline is pumping out of fear, it is essential to just know automatically what to do and the only way to do that is to practice often till it becomes just an automatic response.
I began our fire drill by making it exciting and talking about it like a game. This made it more fun for him. We practiced with him in bed. I pressed the button on the fire alarm so he would know what it sounded like. Then while I was constantly saying, "Beep, beep, beep!" we ran down the steps and put shoes on fast. I had him unlock the door and open it himself, run out in the cold without a coat, run next door and pound on the neighbor's door yelling, "Help! Fire!" over and over.
I then told him to not wait for Mom or Dad and to never, ever go back in the house. I told him how he should wait at the neighbors for the firemen and their fire trucks which he thinks seeing them is cool.
It can be challenging trying to teach something very serious, but still keep it fun enough so as to not lose the child's interest.
Do make it fun, but also throw curve balls at them once they get good at doing it one way. Once your child learns what to do by going out the front door, teach them the other ways they can get out, like what do if they can’t get out the front door, etc. I tell them they may not be able to see and if the house is full of smoke how they can crawl like a baby on the floor.
Often times you are met with questions of what a fire can do, if they will have to go to the hospital and who will get their pets out. I recommend being very honest and frank, but always follow up with some reassuring words such as, "Fire can be very scary and can hurt really bad, but know that Mama or Daddy will always find you and come get you" or "We will get your doggie, you just go next door and wait for us."
I urge you to take the time to do this with your children together as a family and with each child individually and practice it often. Offer rewards such as a treat later or stickers or whatever you want as an incentive to practice and to make it rewarding for doing the right thing.
My dad had very smart words. He said, “Hope and pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.” These are very good words to live by in preparing for disasters. Though I don’t like scaring my child, I do want him to know what to do in case of an emergency such as a fire so he won’t freeze in fear. We will practice at least on a monthly basis so he will do it automatically thereby possibly saving his own life.
I pray it’s a skill we never have to use.
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