A few days after the tragic fire in Stamford, I once again sat my boys down to go over our family evacuation plan.
They are to exit out the front door and meet us at the neighbor's house. If the stairs are blocked, they are to come into our room where we have a ladder to hang out a second floor window.
"Don't grab anything," I say. "Focus on simply getting out."
"But, what about Polies?" says Sam, referring to his beloved stuffed polar bear.
"And, I'll need to find Oscar," pipes up Ben, showing concern for our elderly cat.
We've been over this before, so I was really frustrated and worried. How can we talk to our kids about fire safety in a way that they'll understand?
"I think the problem is we're so scared of scaring them, we kind of couch it and make it sound easy, but unfortunately we do have to scare them," says Alison Rhodes, "The Safety Mom" from Wilton who travels the country, blogging and speaking about safeguarding kids. "We do have to say, 'Look, there can be a fire. You need to know to get out of the house and don't worry about anybody but yourself'."
She thinks this concept can be difficult for older kids who we have taught to be protective, responsible and caring.
"It's almost like we have to turn it around and say, 'Nothing would make Mommy happier than making sure you're safe. That would make me feel better'," she says.
Children respond to repetition, So just like we need to check our smoke detectors frequently, we also have to practice fire drills on a regular basis.
"We need to constantly talk to our kids about this, not just in October when it's fire-safety month. We need to be talking every month and having those conversations," says Rhodes, a mother of three. She advises us to write out our plan and share it with anyone who takes care of our children.
"If you're having a babysitter you've never had before, does she really know the address of your house if she's calling 911?" Give those helpers a tour of your home, pointing out where fire extinguishers are stored. Also, Rhodes suggests we consider our child's temperament and think about their possible reaction to a chaotic situation.
"It's been shown that kids will actually run away from a firefighter because they're scared of them. So, take your kids to the local fire department. Ask them to put on their gear."
Ultimately, it's up to homeowners to practice fire prevention. Rhodes tells us to scrutinize our kitchens. Make sure no pot holders or dish towels are dangling anywhere near the stove, and don't forget the possibility of an electrical fire.
"If you're seeing your circuit breakers shut down a lot, if you see the lights dim when you turn something on, you might want to have an electrician check it out."
The heartbreaking details of the Badgers' ordeal have left many of us completely shaken and disturbed. I need to replace my frustration with vigilance. When the risks are so real, action is our only option.
>>To see a home evacuation drill with "The Safety Mom" tune into today's Fox CT Morning News.
Stamford Tragedy Reminds Us That 'Drill' Is Key Word In Fire-Evacuation Plan
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