In spirit of the back-to-school season, I am crossing all my T’s and dotting all my I’s to make sure I am prepared for anything. I am checking off all my tasks and to-do’s. You know those lingering things that you continue to put off like doctor’s appointments for yourself, or that haircut for yourself. Well, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve let home safety also slide, and dangerously. Fire safety is one of those things that I never really think about—partly because I can’t even imagine it.
We read about tragedy in the news every day, and sometimes even have close calls crossing the street or climbing a step ladder at home. There are so many times in a week (sometimes in a day) that I think—wow that could have gone the wrong way, BUT as unpredictable as home fires can be, the best defense we have is to be prepared.
For back to school preparation, I am an over-preparer most of the time. When it comes to snacks, food, supplies and clothes, I’m on it. But an escape plan for a possible fire emergency at home? Deer in headlights. Practicing a fire drill at home? Huh? We expect our offices, buildings, schools and daycares to have solid and seamless fire safety plans. I remember doing monthly fire drills back when I was in school. So why aren’t we being diligent about fire safety in our own homes, especially for our family of five living in a New York City apartment building on the 20th floor!?
Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen is a program dedicated to reducing accidental injury (the leading cause of death of children ages 0-12). Make Safe Happen is focused on educating parents and caregivers on critical areas like safe nursery, water safety and home fires—these areas have the most potential to lead to serious and potentially fatal issues. It is important for parents to feel empowered and capable in an emergency and also take steps to avoid emergency situations all together.
As we head back to school and enter into fall and winter—when home fires are generally more common– think of how dangerous space heaters and electric blankets are. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2017, on average, seven people died in U.S. home fires per day! Home fires are the biggest disaster threat facing American families today but only half of parents surveyed by Nationwide said their children know what to do in the event of a home fire. The fact that all 50 states plus the District of Columbia require that fire drills take place in schools, sometimes as often as once per month—yet many of us don’t have drills in our home—is pretty scary.
On Saturday, October 13, 2018, Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen, with partners – Nationwide Children’s Hospital, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the American Red Cross (ARC) along with other Make Safe Happen Advisory Council members – will observe the third annual Home Fire Drill Day. On this day, I will be practicing our home fire drill and I encourage you all to do the same. It is important that American families, especially children, know the escape plan and are prepared in the event of a home fire. Here are some helpful steps from HomeFireDrillDay.com for staying safe.
Step One: Know where to go! Pick a safe spot that’s near your home and a safe distance away. Let your kids hear the smoke alarm and explain that when they hear this they need to leave the house and go to the safe spot. For us apartment dwellers in New York City, we have fire department sanctioned exit routes posted in our hallways, so we will meet at a safe spot in our apartment and proceed together to the safest exits.
Step Two: Check your Smoke Alarms! Test your smoke detectors regularly and show your kids where they are and what they sound like. For people who live in homes, there should be alarms on each level and one in each bedroom.
Step Three: DO THE DRILL! Run fire drills at home. Send the kids to their bedrooms and wait for the drill to begin. Put one adult in charge of sounding the alarm and running the drill. Sound the alarm and time yourselves to make sure you are safely “out” as fast as possible. According to the Red Cross, a family has less than two minutes to get out safely. For my family, we live in a high-rise building but the elevator is never an acceptable means of exit during a fire so we have to find the closest staircase and make sure we stay low and bring flashlights. We also have to make sure we close the door behind us because, in tall buildings, fires can spread from apartment to apartment if doors are left open.
Visit Makesafehappen.com and check out the Make Safe Happen app for helpful room-by-room and age-by-age tips on keeping your family safe and secure. Moments can make the difference between life and death and it is so much better to be over-prepared for an emergency than not prepared!
I pledge to practice our own Home Fire Drill on October 13—will you? HomeFireDrillDay.com