Once upon a time, a four(ish) year-old little girl and her six(ish) year-old older brother had the best of intentions on a cold winter morning in the pacific northwest; they were going to clean the ash from the fireplace as a favor for their parents. Those good intentions, however, resulted in lit embers making their way into a trash bag that soon lit the wood siding on their home on fire and set part of their home ablaze. Fast forward about 28 years and that same little girl, although now hyper-vigilant about fire safety, had another fire in her home – this time due to an unattended candle that was left burning while her family was out having a morning of fun.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, that little girl is me. Having grown up knowing that we had a house fire once, I’ve always been acutely aware that it can happen again. Terrified, even. Well, it did. So, I’m here to tell you that accidents can happen to even the most cautious of us. Since October is Fire Prevention Month, here are some basic fire safety tips to keep your family protected all year long. Preparation and practice are key.
CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS
Do you know how old your smoke alarms are? The National Fire Protection Agency recommends replacing them every 10 years. Sure, there’s nothing more annoying than when the battery is dying and the alarm won’t stop beeping, but what if the alarm just stops working all of a sudden? Be sure to test yours monthly and be proactive about replacing them. Also, keep extra batteries on hand so they can be replaced as soon as the
incessant low-battery beeping starts. Many people simply remove the alarm until they can replace the batteries, but that leaves you vulnerable to risk. Don’t forget to check your fire extinguishers, too.
KEEP MATCHES AND CANDLES OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
This should be a no-brainer, right? Well, if you’re like me, you may have candles on your kitchen and bathroom counters. If you do, be sure to place them out of reach while burning. Always keep matches and lighters out of their reach.
THROW AWAY GLASS CANDLES WHEN THEY START TO GET LOW
Did you know glass candle jars can spontaneously break when the candle gets too low? I didn’t either until it happened to me. The result was a charred bathroom, a temporarily displaced family (mine), and a very large homeowners’ insurance payout. Also, did you know that candles come with burn-time guidelines? Me neither. Be sure to read how long you can safely burn your candles before lighting them.
CHECK ALL CANDLES AND HEAT TOOLS BEFORE LEAVING HOME
I get it, life gets crazy and it’s easy to forget that you have a candle burning somewhere. Or maybe you forgot to unplug your curling iron or hair straightener. Don’t forget to check your stove, oven, and any gas appliances. It only takes an extra minute to take a quick lap around your house before heading out; be sure to check everything. I check it once, then I check it twice. Ooh!
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO CALL 911
Your little ones don’t need to know your iPhone’s password; simply tap “Emergency” on the lock screen and the keypad will appear. Teach your kids how to dial 911 and what to say when someone answers. Thankfully, when our home caught fire when I was a child, all we had to do was wake up our parents (it was early on a Saturday morning) and run across the street. However, though we’d all like to think our kids will never have to call 911 on our behalf, they might. My five-year-old daughter and I have also been diligently practicing her memorization of our address and our full names (we’ll tackle our phone numbers next).
CREATE AN ESCAPE PLAN AND PRACTICE IT OFTEN
Don’t hide, go outside! There’s a reason we have fire drills at work and school. But, how often do we have them at home? Not often enough, I’m sure. Now that my girls are preschool age – and have experienced it first hand – I plan to start teaching them about what to do and where to go in the event of a fire. We have three ground-floor exits in our home and so we’ll create a plan for each exit. Don’t forget the basics like checking doorknobs for heat and the ever so timeless “fall and crawl” and “stop, drop, and roll” techniques.
Quiz your kids unexpectedly. Practice often.
As you can imagine, Pinterest is full of great fire safety activities and resources for kids. I recently found this printable checklist from Protection 1 that I think is a great resource.
What fire safety tips would you add to this list? Add them in the comments!