If you visit and read this blog regularly, you may remember this post, which I wrote back in October after spending an entire afternoon teaching my son (five-year-old Will) about fire safety and holding numerous fire drills.
I’ll be honest, after that afternoon I felt pretty darn good about Will’s fire preparedness and was confident he would know what to do should a fire ever break out in our home.
Fast forward to last weekend, just four months after our Fire Drill Extravaganza. I was in the kitchen, melting broken crayon pieces into heart-shaped crayons for Valentine’s Day. I accidentally left the muffin pan in the oven for a minute too long, and when I opened the oven door the smell of burning wax wafted out. Within seconds the alarm of the smoke detector pierced our quiet morning.
The terribly loud and incessant beeping made me cringe as picked up a kitchen chair and hurried across the living room to the hallway smoke detector.
It was at this point I realized that even though I knew there wasn’t a fire, my kids didn’t know there wasn’t a fire.
I stood quietly in the hallway for a moment, waiting for Will to spring into action and save himself and his sister from the “fire”.
I waited…and waited…and waited, slowly going deafer…and deafer…and deafer.
I finally stuck my head into Will’s room – the door of which was open and is four feet from the smoke alarm – and found him SITTING ON HIS BED AND READING A BOOK. WHILE THE SMOKE DETECTOR WAS GOING OFF.
Erin: “What are you doing?!”
Will: “Reading a book.”
Erin: “Do you hear that noise?!”
Erin: “Do you know what that noise is?”
Will: “Um…is it the smoke detector?”
Erin: “YES! It’s the smoke detector! What should you be doing right now?!”
At this point Will dropped his book, jumped up, and ran out of his room, cruising right past his confused little sister and heading out the front door. As he left the house I called after him, “do you think you should take your sister with you?”
“Oh. Yeah. Sorry.”
Will grabbed Hallie’s hand, dragged her down the front walk and across the street, and settled her at our meeting place.
I stood there in the middle of the living room with my head in my hands, partly because I was so exasperated at how poorly Will had responded to the “fire” and partly because I had a pounding headache from the still-alarming smoke detector.
After I beat the smoke detector into submission (it would NOT turn off), I brought the kids back inside and sat down with them to review our fire safety plan.
Throughout the many years I have been affiliated with the Red Cross I have talked to countless community members – adults and children – about how it’s not enough to simply HAVE a plan, about how sharing and practicing the plan are also important pieces of the overall preparedness puzzle. It wasn’t until last weekend, however, that I recognized just how catastrophic omitting the “practice” step could be. I made and shared the plan, and we practiced the plan at the beginning. But we hadn’t revisited the plan since that first day, and when it came time for Will to actually follow through – in broad daylight and when he was already awake and alert – he failed miserably.
Please review and practice your fire safety and emergency preparedness plans today. Or tonight. Or this weekend. Never assume your children were listening to (Hallie wasn’t) or will remember (Will didn’t) what you taught them the first, second, or even third time around. Don’t let them forget how crucial it is to know what to do and where to go when lives are on the line.