FIRE SAFETY: Tips to teach kids how to respond in a fire

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - In the wake of a fatal trailer fire that took the lives of five young girls, Channel 2 spoke with the American Red Cross and Anchorage Fire Department about ways to teach your children what to do in the case of a fire.

Anchorage Fire Capt. Jaime Leon says the most important aspect of teaching your kids an escape plan is to practice. “Regardless of what happens in an emergency, the smoke detectors are going off for real, and you’re waking up out of a sound sleep. If you don’t have those motor skills and motions ingrained, they may not happen,” Leon says.

Leon says to establish an outside meeting place for your family, and practice getting out of the house and meeting at that area. What each family member does may be different, depending on what’s age-appropriate. “At the correct age, you might train your children to open up the window and actually crawl out to meet you at the meeting place. But if they’re only three feet tall, they may have an issue, which leads to more practice, getting the window open, and then getting out.”

A tool Leon mentioned was an escape ladder for second-story windows. But still, he said, making sure everyone knows how to use them is important. “It’s great to have all those tools and talk about things, but practice is probably the most comforting, to get those motor skills ingrained.”

When practicing escapes, AFD’s Leon says the department teaches kids to “Get Low, and Go” and “Get Out, Stay Out.” Meaning to get below the toxic fumes of house fire smoke, and keep going until you’re out of the building, and never go back into a burning home.

Before a fire starts, there are ways to mitigate risks. The first line of defense against any house fire is a working smoke alarm. The Red Cross and Anchorage fire department say an alarm should be on each level of the home, even basements, inside each bedroom and outside of sleeping areas. Batteries should be changed every six months, even if the alarm is in good working order.

Leon also suggests sleeping with bedroom doors closed. If a fire does start, a bedroom door will keep smoke from coming into a bedroom, giving its occupants additional time to be woken up by a hallway smoke alarm, assess the situation, and evacuate.

If your kid is a particularly hard sleeper, Leon says practice, practice, practice. He noted a study he’d observed where at the beginning, a child would fight off the parents trying to get more sleep as they tried to shake him awake, but by the end of the study, after numerous practice sessions, the child would get out of bed within seconds, check the door handle, plug the gap beneath the door with a towel, open the window and evacuate.

When it comes to children playing with fire, the Red Cross says to make sure matches, lighters and other ignitables are kept secured and out of children’s reach, to teach children to tell a responsible adult when they find matches or lighters, and to check under beds and in closets for burned matches, which may show that a child plays with fire.

The Red Cross also suggests visiting your local Fire Department to meet fire fighters and see the gear they wear, so they are not afraid of them.

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