Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: How my kids reacted to a night time fire drill may save your family's life

Friday, August 29, 2014

How my kids reacted to a night time fire drill may save your family's life

Yes, I am the Unplanned Homeschooler, but when it comes to fire safety, I believe strongly in planning ahead. In fact, there may be nothing more likely to save your family's lives in the case of an emergency than having a good plan and running enough drills so that everyone knows what to do automatically.

That's why I would like to recommend to each and every one of my readers, please schedule a night time fire drill for your family. You never know how your kids will actually react to a fire alarm when they are sleeping until you see the results for yourself. I did, and it was terrifying.

I thought my kids knew what to do

If you think your kids know what to do in case of an emergency, you are not alone. I thought so, too, until last year. I’d gone over lots of scenarios with them, from fires and tornadoes to injuries and intruders, and I really thought they knew what to do if an emergency should arise.

One emergency situation we'd talked about at length, but not actually practiced how to address was a fire at night. I did some research on fire drills, and found the Home Fire Drill website, with videos of how children really reacted to night time fire drills. The videos were frightening. Some children slept right through the alarms of the smoke detector, and others failed to do what they were taught in daytime drills.

Still, I was confident that my own children would do better in a night time fire drill than the kids in the videos.

Night time drills are a must

I had done more than a lot of parents to prepare my children for a fire, primarily because we live in a split level home and the kids’ bedrooms do not have windows. Their avenues of escape are limited, so it's even more important that they know what to do in case of a fire. Also, my grandmother died in a fire when I was ten years old, so I have always taken fire safety very seriously. 

I thought that running through fire scenarios, planning escape routes and learning safety procedures from the fire department would be enough. We discussed our safety plan regularly, and updated it as the children grew older.  Unfortunately, I learned last night all the daytime preparation in the world is no substitute for a night time drill, performed after your children have been asleep for a while.

Results of our fire drill

I had to suppress the giggles as I sneaked downstairs to set off the smoke alarm. I thought for sure my twins would come running out of their rooms in confusion, but then quickly remember the fire escape plan. My amusement quickly faded as the smoke alarm blared and neither child made a sound. Approximately 30 seconds went by before my daughter moaned incoherently.
Several more seconds went by as my daughter whined, “Turn in off,” in a mumbling voice about half a dozen times. A fear settled like a stone in my stomach as I imagined what would happen in the case of a real fire. Finally, my daughter called out in a sleepy cry for her brother. When he heard her say his name, he immediately jumped out of bed.

By then, it had been more than a full minute since the alarm started. In a real fire, you may have only a couple of minutes to escape.

My son saw me in the hall between their rooms and asked what was going on. I said, “Fire! Get out!” He acted very confused and just stood still. I said again, “Fire! Get your sister and get out!” Had the danger been real, he would not have had those verbal instructions.

My son went into my daughter’s room, but neither of them came out until I yelled one more time, “Get out! Fire!” Finally they came stumbling out of the room, neither of them ducking low to avoid smoke inhalation. They went up the stairs instead of out the back door, the planned route to safety we had so often discussed.

My children would have likely died

According to the Home Fire Drill website, approximately 50 percent of people who die in fires were actively trying to escape. But in a real fire, you have only two or three minutes to exit the house before you die. If my children reacted to a real fire as they did in the drill, they would have definitely died.  

This reality scares me, but it also motivates me to hold more fire drills while the kids are asleep, until their subconscious mind is trained to react to the sound of the smoke alarm and they know instinctively what to do.
Please take my family's experience to heart if you have children. Hold a fire drill of your own, a couple of hours after your children go to bed when they are most likely to be in a state of deep sleep. If your kids need improvement, give them the chance to learn the right responses before a real emergency occurs. And share this information with other families you know. It just might save their lives.   

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