Friday, March 26, 2010

Fire! What would you do?

One of the hardest things I have had to do in medical school so far happened one night while I was on pediatrics call. My team was called to the ER to help stabilize children who had been terribly burned in a house fire. There is nothing like looking at a child slightly older than your own, crying in pain and terrified, smelling the stench of burned skin and hair, and watching skin peel off a child's face, arms and legs as you try to take off her clothes. Please pray for these precious children.

Terrible things will happen in life, but there are steps we can take to help
prevent them. Fire safety is something I have never spent much time thinking about, but I am thinking about it a lot today. According to the U.S. Fire Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 5 are twice as likely as the rest of us to die in a fire. Each year, thousands of children are injured or killed in home fires, and 40% of them are under the age of 5. What would E-Bear and G-Bear do if they woke up to fire in our house? What would T and I do? How can I keep something like this from happening to the people I love?

The U.S. Fire Administration website is a good resource if you are looking for ideas on how to improve fire safety for yourself or your family. They even have a kids version that looks like it would be great for elementary-age kids to playfully test themselves and practice thinking about what they would do in a fire situation.

Here are some of the many ideas I got from the USFA website that I am going to implement in our home. If you aren't already ahead of me on this, you should do this too!

1. Kids are curious about fire: Matches, lighters, and other heat sources are the leading causes of fire-related deaths for children under age 5. In fact, toddlers actually cause a large number of home fires by playing with lighters and matches. Children have a natural curiosity about fire and you can’t underestimate their ability to strike matches or start a lighter alarm.
*Teach your toddlers to tell you if they find something "hot" by looking at pictures of fires, pointing out fireplaces, candles, matches, lighter. Tell them that "hot" things can hurt them, and only adults should use them.
*Don't ever play with fire in front of kids, because they might try to imitate you, and keep all heat and flame-producing objects locked away out of reach of kids.

2. Go check your smoke alarm!: TWO-THIRDS OF HOME FIRES THAT KILL CHILDREN HAPPEN IN HOMES WITHOUT WORKING SMOKE ALARMS. Go check your smoke alarm, right now! Make sure it has a back-up, working battery, place alarms on every floor, especially in hallways near bedrooms, in your basement, in your kitchen. Replace batteries once a year, check them monthly to make sure they work. Talk to your kids about what the alarm means--don't expect them to know what the loud, scary noise means. AND...teach them what to do if they hear the alarm go off. Which brings me to....

3. Have a fire safety practice day: MAKE YOUR FIRE ESCAPE PLANS AND PRACTICE IT WITH YOUR KIDS, EVEN TODDLERS. Make a picture of your house layout together, including all doors and windows, and drawing at least 2 routes out of each room. Consider different scenarios, with fire starting in different places, and develop a plan with options. Teach kids to crawl to get away from fire to stay under the smoke. Choose a special outdoor meeting place and teach your kids to never go back into the house and to wait for you there. Practice makes perfect, especially with toddlers, so have fun practicing your plan together.

4. Tips for babies: Keep a harness or sling easily accessible near your child's room to ease the carrying of your baby if you have to evacuate quickly (hands free is better). Keep bedroom doors closed, this prevents smoke from entering a room, and may give you or firefighters extra time before smoke and gases overcome a child.

We are going to be having a fire safety day in our house. Do it too! And share these ideas with your friends.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

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