Fire Safety Lessons, Learned

Following a nursery school trip to the local firehouse recently (pictured at right), my 4-year-old asked a lot of questions about what happens if there is a fire in our home. A lot of questions. Over and over again. We answered patiently and repetitively, giving her the facts and reassuring her that it is an unlikely situation and, with the knowledge we’re sharing, one we will know how to deal with should the time ever come.

Then the smoke alarm went off in our house.

It was yesterday morning, and Adira and I were doing what we do on most Sunday mornings, making pancakes. Only this Sunday, determined to finally make a whole batch without any burned ones, I greased the pan obsessively. And there they were, golden, the nearest-to-perfect pancakes my humble hands have ever produced (with an assist, of course, from the 4-year-old).

But before we had a chance to admire our creations, let alone taste them, a shrill noise sounded. It took me a moment to understand what was going on, but then I realized the smoke alarm was sounding, which had never happened before in the year-and-a-half we’ve been in our house.  Though the house didn’t look, smell, or feel particularly smoky, my determined greasing must have set it off. And while I tried to quickly figure out what to do–how do I shut the thing off? Should I check the basement, just in case there was a real fire? What to do about the baby and wife still sleeping upstairs–Adira knew. She was ready to go outside, as discussed over and over following her firehouse trip.

As I disabled the alarm, I assured her we didn’t have to leave and that it was a false alarm. But I did feel bad not following through with the plans we’d repeated ad nauseam, and not reinforcing the lesson she was so interested in and worried about. We probably should have gone outside, like we taught her. Still, it was pouring out, and it was early Sunday morning. We were staying put.

Moments later, though, two fire engines, sirens blaring, pulled up in front, and about 10 firefighters with full gear hopped out and headed for our home. I did step out then and reassured them that it was just a kitchen mishap. After ribbing me for burning breakfast and interrupting theirs, and then relaying my shame via radio back to the dispatcher, they went on their way.

It’s good to know that our alarms really do alert the fire department, and even better to know how cool-headed and prepared my daughter was, even in a false alarm. And yes, the pancakes were as delicious as they looked.

See more on fire safety at home.

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