October is Fire Safety Month, and I’ve spent years teaching fire safety to the wee ones. At 10 and 12 now, it’s more reminders – and I’m beyond grateful that they’ve never truly had to learn anything I’ve taught them, but it only takes on moment for all that to change, so I’m grateful that this has been a focus for us for so many years.
That said, teaching fire safety can easily become something kids get scared of. A fire is a big deal, and the consequences are so huge that kids can get anxious and start to focus too much on the danger of fire that – thankfully – isn’t a common occurrence in most kids’ lives. It can be a fine line to tread, but I think I’ve found a few ways to make things effective and at the same time teach my kids what to do and what not to do.
As much as I focus on kids, even as adults, we have roles to minimize the likelihood of fire and to ensure early warning if there is a fire in our homes. Energizer® has a goodwill campaign to help remind us to change the batteries in our smoke detectors with the start of Daylight Savings Time every year and their Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery™ campaign. On average, families have less than three minutes to escape a fire from the time a smoke detector first goes off. And in Chicago, all too often we hear stories of deaths in fires in homes without working smoke detectors. According to to the National Fire Protection Association, 71% of non-functioning smoke alarms had missing, disconnected or dead batteries. I do not want to be that news story.
The good news is that with Mister Man’s birthday, it provides us a great reminder to pick up those batteries to change out each year. His birthday? Absolutely.
He’s a 12 year old boy now, and you know that for years most of the birthday gifts he wants required batteries. Every year, after we choose his gifts, we then scoot on down to the battery display at Walmart and pick up the batteries he will need for his presents and some Energizer® MAX® 9 volt batteries to switch out our smoke detectors come that first Sunday in November (yikes, November 1 this year).
The good news is that even though most of our clocks are digital and change on their own, we still have plenty that we need to change ourselves, so adding the smoke detectors to that list isn’t a big deal at all. The one I always forget? The clock in my car. And the watch I wear only on special occasions. Needless to say, that’s why I created a printable to remind me which clocks to change (and how many of each I have to do). Feel free to click the link to download and use the clock change reminder for yourself, too!
My husband is always the lucky one I elect to change the smoke detector batteries. He’s tall enough to reach the smoke detector, and he’s ok with the loud chirp right by his ears when we test to make sure the new Energizer Max battery is working properly. Plus, he doesn’t complain about the dust (shhh, I do).
And yes, your smoke detector gets dusty. Everything else does, why not the smoke detector? When you change the batteries, make sure you dust it, too, especially the terminals. And yes, we always use the Energizer Max 9 volt battery in our smoke detector. Why? It’s designed to protect against leaks for 2 years after fully used when in low drain devices (like a smoke detector) and retain power for up to ten years before being used, which is perfect for me because I tend to stock up on batteries and forget I did so.
That’s the easy part. The harder part is teaching fire safety to kids – without making it overwhelming.
Teaching Fire Safety To Kids
One of the first thing we figured out as parents is that our kids – especially our kids, but I think it’s true of kids in general – listen more when someone in addition to us tells them something. Reinforcing the message with other authority figures is a huge help. Our local fire department has an open house every year in October, and it’s a great chance for kids to see what firefighters do and learn some key messages while having a little bit of fun with the activities they have on site. (Oh my word, was Little Miss adorable or what?)
This has definitely helped the wee ones get more comfortable with firefighters being helpers and not just something scary that portends disaster. Whenever we went, the firefighters would give them tips on what to do if there was a fire, but their experience helped keep it on the right level so that it was fun – but not the kind of fun where they want a fire or firefighters to visit their house. Instead, they started asking me to bake treats to periodically bring to the fire house, and how do you say no to those faces?
We reinforce teaching fire safety at home, too. We have practiced our escape routes from various places in the house. Little Miss is lucky to have the porch roof right outside her window, and she knows she can open her window and exit via the roof, sliding less than a story to the ground in the worst case scenario, while Mister Man has a metal (so it won’t burn) escape ladder by his window that he can use to exit his room.
The focus, however, is traditional exits. Ideally, they can leave their rooms in the unlikely instance that they need to escape, and we’ve taught them the important steps to take, from feeling the doorknob carefully to ensure that the fire isn’t right outside their rooms to crawling to avoid smoke.
In teaching fire safety, we’ve also placed a working flashlight in each room. If they can’t escape through their doors or windows, they know they have a flashlight they can turn on and wave out the window to alert rescuers that there is a person inside. We practice our escape route once a year, usually after we’ve finished changing all our clocks and the batteries in our smoke detectors because that’s a great time to remember to do it for our family.
The last piece for us has to do with the escape, as well. We have a meeting place, but if for some reason, they aren’t with us or can’t find us in the chaos, it was a critical part of teaching fire safety that the wee ones knew how to call us on my cell phone and remember the number.
When they were little, it was hard for them to remember the number, so I made up a quick story they could learn and listen for the numbers to remember what they are. It was pretty effective, and the wee ones learned their phone numbers quicker than most of their friends. To this day, they still giggle about the monkeys swinging on the trapeze.
It’s easy to switch up this story – or make up your own – to fit whatever your phone number is. Seven was a hard one for us, and we chose to have it represented by a trapeze. You can choose whatever works for you because teaching fire safety isn’t just about what we did but about what works best for you.