Are You Playing with Fire?
Plan ahead to protect your family should disaster strike.
By Christa Melnyk Hines
hen it comes to home disasters, children are
most likely to experience a fire. Preparedness
and planning saves lives, but nearly three-
quarters of Americans have never developed or
practiced a home fire escape plan.
I know what you are thinking: “The chances of my
house catching on fire are remote. House fires only
happen on the news, to other people.”
That’s what I thought, too, until my husband and I
stood shivering in the snow while firefighters crashed
through our burning home and reporters buzzed
A brand new lamp shorted out while we were at work,
turning our bedroom into an inferno that blasted out
our windows. Energized by gulps of air, it proceeded to
lick its way toward the roof.
According to the National Fire Protection Association
(NFPA), fires claim as many as 400,000 homes in the U.S.
each year. Although we were displaced from our home
for several months, we counted our blessings that no
one was hurt or died. On average, seven people die
each day in house fires across the nation.
Curious youngsters who play with fire are also cause for
serious concern. According to the American Red Cross,
children under five are twice as likely to die in a house
fire compared to the rest of the population. Frightened
kids who don’t know how to escape or what to do,
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Take steps to help keep your kids safe.
Visit the fire department. From the time my boys were
toddlers, I’ve taken advantage of organized tours to
our local fire department. The firefighters show the
kids how they change into their protective gear. I could
see why firefighters worry about kids hiding from them
during a fire. Dressed in their masks and gear in the
station, they look alien. But they must look terrifying
and monstrous while fearlessly marching through dark
smoke and flames searching for scared children and
If you and your family have never been on one of these
tours, call your local fire department to schedule one.
Encourage other families to join you. You don’t have to
be with a school or organization and the tours are free.
Create and practice an escape plan. When my son was
in second grade, the teacher assigned the kids to come
up with a fire escape plan. Together, we drew a plan
of our house. Then we walked through it to come up
with two ways out of the house in the event of a fire.
We ran a drill, crawling through the house to get to the
exits and designating a family meet-up spot. This was a
valuable exercise to see how quickly we could get out
and if there were any flaws in our design.
Got a two-story home? “Get a ladder,” says Nicole Feltz,
an American Family Insurance agent. “It will allow the
family and kids to escape if you can’t get down the
stairs.” Store the ladders under upstairs beds.