A Smart Fire Safety Plan

Plan a Family Fire Drill

The Family Fire Drill

Your first step: Create an escape plan based on your home's layout. (Go to sparky.org, a kid-friendly fire-safety site, to download a blank template.) Identify two ways out of every room, if possible. Then go over the plan with children ages 5 and older. Don't bother showing the map to younger kids. They'll understand it better by practicing, so walk around your home and show your children where the exits are and how they'll get out, suggests Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. Home drills can be scary for small kids, so it's important to reassure them, says Carr. "Tell your child that it's your job to protect her. You can say something like, 'We don't expect to have a fire, but if it happens, this is what we'll do to be safe.'"

Next, teach your kids to "get low and go." Have them practice escaping from each room by crouching down very low and crawling along the perimeter of the room to an exit. Make sure your child understands that this technique is different from "stop, drop, and roll," which is what kids should do only if their clothing catches fire. (Carr explains that during at-home drills, many children have tried to stop, drop, and roll their way out of rooms.) Coach your child to feel a closed door with the back of his hand before he opens it; if it's hot, he should quickly head to the second way out if there's one available.

Do your drill a couple of times each year, using a different exit each time. If you have a fire escape, make sure that it's clear. If you live in a home with a second or higher level and you don't already have a Ul-certified collapsible rescue ladder, consider getting one to stow near an exit window. Children should be a rung above you and stay between your body and the ladder as they climb down, so you can catch them in case they slip. The Fire Department of New York recommends attaching the ladder at least once soon after you get it, so that you know it works and you're familiar with it in an emergency.

Finally, work out which parent will oversee which child's removal. "This should reduce any confusion that can cost precious seconds," says Carr. Establish your family meeting spot outside the home so that you can quickly do a head count.

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