September is National Preparedness Month,
promoted by the US government (DHS and FEMA). Fortunately, we’re several months ahead in our planning, so we’re already putting together our 72 hour kits. The next step is to have a family council and discuss emergency escape plans. Emergency escape plans start at home. It is critical that every family member know how to get out of their home in case of an emergency, especially fire. Do you have two ways to get out of each room in your home? How about two ways to exit your house? Unless a small fire can be easily controlled, fire fighting should be left to professional firefighters. Family members should concentrate on escaping to safety. To make sure this happens, make a home emergency escape plan and practice it so often that even youngsters in your family know it by heart. Since kitchens are the leading area of origin, make your exit plan away from the kitchen. Make your plan. This link includes a graph for you to use to draw your floor plan and mark exits, courtesy of the National Fire Prevention Association. Deaths from home fires occur most frequently between midnight and 4 AM, when most people are asleep. More than 6,500 people die each year from fire – more than half are children and senior citizens. Smoke filling the home is a dangerous situation. Family members may not be able to see very well, get dizzy and disoriented and become trapped. Smoke alarms can save lives.
Important rule: get out quickly. Practice, Practice, Practice your plan until every family member understands what to do and how to get out of your home in the dark. Play a game to determine how quickly you can all get together.
Pick a meeting place a safe distance from the house. This should be something that is stationary and will not be moved. Everyone should meet there in the event of a fire. This will prevent family members from wandering around the neighborhood looking for one another or being tempted to go back into the house. Once there, one person can go to a neighbor’s to call 9-1-1, if you didn’t grab your cell phone on the way out. If anyone is missing, give that information to the fire department immediately and tell them the probable location of the missing person. Do not re-enter the burning building.
Make special provisions for infants, young children, disabled or the elderly who may need additional help when escaping. These should be included in the emergency escape plan and discussed. Children often hide in a closet or under the bed when frightened. Encourage them to exit outside. Do not allow them to hide. Make sure they practice opening the window, descending a ladder or lowering themselves to the ground through a window. Teach sliding out feet first, holding on with two hands and bending the knees when landing on the ground. If you take a child with you, lower them first before you exit. They may panic and not follow. Every family member should practice speaking the fire department phone number, the family name and street address into the telephone. Pick a place your family can meet if a disaster occurs and you are not at home. Select one in your neighborhood and one outside the neighborhood. Add the name of an out of area family member to your Family Preparedness Card. When separated, family can call this number to confirm their location and condition. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has an app to help adults Help Kids Cope with these traumas.
Next Month – What do you do if your home is destroyed?
Billie Nicholson, Editor