Early Learning Centres(ELC) are required to prepare for fire emergencies. For all ELC's this means, having a well-designed Emergency Plan that educators can easily follow when evacuating the children.
For Early Learning Centres in multi-storey buildings these challenges will include the locations of babies and toddlers rooms in the facility, equipment availability and the number of staff on site to be able to assist in the evacuation of children using evacuation cots, evacuation prams and baby carriers.
The best time to teach children about fire safety was yesterday; the next best time is today. Like any other life skill, fire safety should be taught to children by their adult companions as soon as they can understand the basic concepts. A study has shown that children between 4 to 12 years of age can learn new ideas the fastest and are more likely to retain them.
By introducing fire safety to children, we avoid a reaction of fear and confusion from them in the unfortunate event that a fire breaks out. Statistically, children face a high risk of injury during a home fire and are among the age groups with the most fire-related deaths. Here are some simple, bite-sized lessons to promote fire safety for kids:
Learn the Emergency Number
Some kids might be overexposed to American-produced television shows and online videos that they might think that ‘911’ is the number to call in case of an emergency. As soon as they’re old enough to be on the phone, let them memorise that ‘000’ is the correct number to call during emergencies.
Map-Out an Escape Plan
Familiarise children with possible ways out of every room in the house. Whether it’s going to be through a window or a door, it’s best to prepare multiple escape options. This plan includes teaching kids how to open windows and unlock doors. Finally, allocate a designated meeting place outside your home, and highlight the importance of staying there until everyone present.
Teach them About Smoke Detectors
Let the children know what smoke detectors are for and where they are throughout the house. Test the alarms in the presence of the kids to familiarise them with the sound. Let them associate the sound with ‘get outside the house’ rather than ‘panic and freeze.’
Practice Crawling to Get Outside
More than half of fire-related casualties are from excessive smoke inhalation. By staying low during a fire, the chances of inhaling large amounts of smoke are mitigated. When lots of smoke is present, visibility may become diminished. It can be a good idea for everyone, not just children, to practice crawling out of the house in blindfolds. This activity can easily be turned into an exciting game for kids when a treat is waiting for them outside. Before they realise it, they’re more than capable of getting out of the house even with low visibility.
Perform fire drills regularly with your children to ingrain them into their muscle memories. Consistent practice will shake-off most of the panic and confusion if the real thing happens.
It’s Always Best to be Prepared
As the cliché goes, prepare for the worst but hope for the best. By making sure that everyone in your household, especially your children, is well-prepared in the instance of a fire, you can spend less time worrying about everyone’s safety.
Picture this – it’s Wednesday night, 2am and everyone is sound asleep. The children, aged 2 and 5, are downstairs in their bedrooms and the family dog is in the kennel outside. Suddenly, out of nowhere, like a grand strike of lightening filling the night sky, the calm serenity of the night is fractured. You are abruptly jolted awake by the ear-piercing screech of the fire alarm. The smell of smoke begins to fill your nostrils and within a split second, your heart rate doubles. Your mind starts to race…why is there a fire? Where is this fire? Do the kids know what to do in a fire – but they are downstairs?! Anxiety defiantly grips every part of your body as you leap out of bed and realise the fire is coming from the kitchen – a mere 10m away from the children’s bedroom.
Approximately, seven people die every day as a result of fires in the home. But alarmingly, the U.S. Fire Administration reports that children below the age of 5 have a significantly higher risk of dying in a residential fire, with more than 40% of children killed or injured in a home fire being under the age of 5.
Family Escape Plan – Practice to be Prepared
Do these statistics make your palms sweat and your heart race? Do you have a little one at home? Would they know what to do in the event of an emergency? Most fatal fires are preventable, so it is important to make the time to prepare now to protect yourself, your family, and your home.
Arguably, the most important plan you will ever make is your family’s fire escape plan. A fire escape plan is a personalised plan of action that outlines how people should escape a burning house and identifies evacuation routes in the event of a fire.
How to make a fire escape plan:
Gather all members of your family and together, make a plan (see resource list)
Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Determine two ways out of each room, including walls and doors.
Mark the location of each smoke alarm and check that smoke alarms are working
Agree on a safe spot to meet outside the house
Determine the roles of each person in your family in the case of a fire
Teach children, in an age-appropriate manner, on how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Practice really is the key to being prepared for an emergency. Practice during the day, practice during the night, make your drill as realistic as possible. It is worth the time and effort to ensure that your family can quickly and safely evacuate your home.
Resources to help you create your family escape planResources to help you create your family escape plan