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Working Toward 100%

Did you know that October is National Fire Safety Month?

To be honest, I usually forget until about a week into the month, when my kids burst through the door after school wearing plastic firefighter helmets and clutching fire prevention coloring books. They chatter on and on about how firefighter Kelly let them pretend to drive the fire engine, how firefighter Casey actually slides down a pole in the fire station, and how firefighter Joe raises chickens in his backyard. It’s possible my daughter may have redirected her conversation with firefighter Joe into waters unrelated to fire safety…

Once reminded about National Fire Safety Month, I gather the kids in the living room for a meeting/lesson/discussion about fire safety. We talk about how to prevent fires, practice what to do if our clothes catch fire (stop, drop, and roll), and practice evacuating our home (get out, stay out, and call for help) through different doors and windows. I also turn on the smoke alarm so that they can once again hear its loud, rhythmic scream.

A few days later I stage a surprise fire drill. When my kids least expect it – which is basically every minute of every day – I turn the hallway smoke alarm on, return to the living room, and prepare to watch them leap into action. I expect to see them emerge cautiously from their rooms, crawl down the hallway to the nearest exit, carefully touch the door and door knob to feel for heat, and finally leave the house and safely cross the street to our established meeting place.

Except every single time I stage one of these surprise fire drills, even if the drills pop up just a couple of days after our fire safety discussions, my kids fail miserably. MISERABLY.

It doesn’t seem matter how often I expose my kids to the noise the smoke alarm makes, talk about what to do when the smoke alarm goes off, and then help them practice our escape plan…both of my kids barely take notice when the alarm goes off and they’re not expecting it.

I turned on the smoke alarm and waited 10 seconds; when neither child responded, I walked to the playroom where I found them glued to a cartoon. WHILE THE SMOKE ALARM WAS GOING OFF. Argh.
photo 2

After I snapped the photo above, my son looked up, saw me, and snapped out of his Wild Kratts-induced haze. To his credit, he recognized the noise, grabbed his sister’s arm, and pulled her (against her will) out of the room, to the front door, and across the street…but he had to see me to realize what was going on, and she failed to figure out what was going on until she was out of the house.photo 3

All this goes to show that breezing over fire safety once or twice a year isn’t enough, especially when children are involved.

I think about it this way: I’ve told my seven-year-old to look both ways when he crosses the street every single time he’s crossed a street with me. My husband’s done the same. So my son’s had, I don’t know, hundreds of reminders over the last six years and he still only looks both ways 65-75% of the time.

So talk about fire safety this month…after all, it’s National Fire Safety Month. But talk about it next month when you’re cooking Thanksgiving meal. And in December when you’re checking your holiday lights. And in March when you’re lighting birthday candles and July when you’re lighting sparklers. Talk about fire safety very month, until we all know what to do, 100% of the time.

To add insult to injury, when our fire drill ended the smoke alarm taunted me by absolutely refusing to turn off. I couldn’t find the “off” switch, so I removed it from the wall…it continued to go off. I removed the battery…it continued to go off. I put it in the garage, where it continued to go off for two more minutes and where it stayed until my husband came home from work and magically fixed it. My ears are still ringing today…