An interesting thing happened at our home Monday. Our grandson had spent the night Sunday. It was Monday morning, and we had been up for a little while. I set my alarm clock, but got up before it went off. It started going off, and I asked my wife what it was. Our grandson got up quickly, took my hand, and led me outside. After a few moments, I realized that he was treating the alarm clock like an activating smoke alarm and led me to a safe place. When we got outside, I asked him about his grandma, who was still in the house. He immediately went back in and got her and brought her to the same place. We asked where he learned this, and he said “preschool.” He, the four-year-old, conducted an Exit Drill in the Home, or EDITH.
There was one piece of his plan that I used as a teaching moment. He went back inside to get his grandma. As difficult as it was to understand, I told him that once you get out, then you stay out. Going back inside means there may be two victims instead of one. Not going back inside takes a great deal of discipline, considering that one of the most precious people in your life may still be inside. It is not that you are leaving them behind, but you will let firefighters know that someone is inside, the moment that they arrive.
Let’s get back to EDITH Another name for the exit plan is a home escape plan. A home escape plan starts with getting out of your home when smoke alarms are activating. The key to an effective home escape plan is when it becomes a practiced home escape plan. The practiced home escape plan must involve primary and secondary exits. I do not recommend that you crawl out of second- or third-floor windows, but I do recommend that you see what it takes to get out of a first-floor window. If you have a rescue ladder, you will want to practice with it. Deploy it from the second-floor window, then go outside and climb from the ground up to see how it feels. Then deploy it out the first-floor window and climb down. Clearing a window and climbing out of a window is difficult. If you do not have a rescue ladder, then the way to get out of an upper-floor window is to hang and drop. Do not practice hang and drop!
If while exiting, you encounter smoke, do not walk through the smoke. You must “stay low and go.” The best air will be the air near the floor. If you can get out avoiding the smoke, then do that. Depending on where the fire is in relation to where you are may determine how much fire or smoke that you may have to get around. If you are awoken by smoke alarms, you should roll out of bed, crawl to the door and check it with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, do not open it. Turn your light on and stuff clothing or blankets under the door. Go to your window and open it. If you need to, leave, hang and drop. If you can wait for neighbors or firefighters, then wait. If your door is cool, look down the hallway and leave your house as quickly as possible. If you sleep with your door open, then you may need to shut your door to prevent the fire and smoke from getting into your room.
Our grandson was an example of our children knowing better what to do when smoke alarms activate than many adults do. I applaud preschool teachers for teaching these lifesaving practices. The other side of the spectrum is complacency that most people have when fire alarms activate. I can remember first-grade, second-grade and fourth-grade fire safety programs when I worked in the Public Education Division of Fire & Life Safety.
Again, children are better educated in fire safety practices than most adults are. May we listen and follow their lead.