Fire Proofing Memories
Last May my family nearly missed my graduate school graduation because of the Coco fires that erupted all over southern California, charring nearly 2,000 acres of land and taking with it 35 homes. Before that, however, as a freshman in college I was let out of school for a week due to poor air quality from the October fires that struck San Diego in 2007. Going back even further, four years before that, and in 2003, during my freshman year of high school, our school was again shut down for a week due to poor air quality, and because the fires were only miles away from potentially leveling our school. For awhile I joked at the pattern, thinking to myself I better not start or leave school again any time soon in case another fire gears up for a fight. Of course, I am not to blame, and neither is my education, but in all of these fires that I’ve experienced over the last ten or so years, I have learned one very important thing. Always be prepared.
Particularly with the 2007 fires, I remember a large amount of people not being nearly as prepared as they should have been. Working as a server at the time, I spent the better part of one of my day shifts, bagging chips and salsa, making to-go orders, and sending them with people who had evacuated to Qualcomm Stadium. We even had men and women, on the verge of heading out to fulfill their duty in their firefighter jobs. Many hadn’t thought to bring food with them, and with the evacuation site catering to hundreds of people, bread and peanut butter was all that on the menu. From kids coming in asking for grilled cheeses, and adults coming in for a much needed—and soothing—margarita, these families were struck down in their tracks, evacuating with only a moment’s notice to the only place they had.
In a previous post,I briefly mention the importance of having a plan, but as we enter fire season I’d like to go further into this, allowing you and your family better preparation.
Always have a plan with your family. Make sure that kids understand the importance of a fire alarm going off, even if they don’t smell smoke. Go over with your kids different escape routes for them in every room, including windows and doors, so that they know if they smell smoke in the hallway to make for the window instead. Make sure that your child understands to get out of the house first, before they try and find you—if they try and find you, they may get swallowed up in the damage, leaving them stranded.
Fire alarms should be placed in each sleeping room and outside every door of a room used for sleep. Try investing in an interconnected smoke alarm that causes all other alarms in your home to sound after one’s gone off, regardless of whether or not they sense smoke yet. Finally, be sure to choose an alarm that will stir your kids from their slumber in the case of an evacuation. Studies show that many kids sleep through the standard alarm, making it a priority for you to test out alarms and find one that rouses them in the dead of night.
Make sure every one of your family members understands the ins and outs of the escape plan. Be certain that every toddler or infant has a designated older child or adult to help him or her in the event of a fire, while providing a back up in case that person is not there. Have your family memorize the number of the fire department, instructing them to call if they’re near a phone and they smell smoke. Lastly, make sure that your family has a designated meeting spot, whether it be the stop sign on the corner or the mail box across the street so that you can do a head count before the firefighters arrive.
Don’t forget the pets! We all love our animals and as they are a member of the family, your little ones are likely to panic if they feel they have not been taken care of. Make an evacuation plan for them as well, informing your children that in the event of a fire, you or another adult will be in charge of securing their animals. This will help put a stop to your child wandering off in a fire in search of their dog or cat, while leaving you able to make the judgment call of whether or not it is safe enough to look for them before evacuating.
Make an investment in a fireproof box to store precious jewels, photographs, and important documents in. In the event that your home catches fire, you’ll want to grab them if possible, but if that’s not an option the fireproofing should help keep them safe for when you’re allowed to return to your home once again.
Fires, aside from being scary and destructive, are one of the most spontaneous events that can occur. When a fire starts, especially in your sleep, you’re left to the hands of fire alarms and your nose to let you know when there’s something gone awry. Ensure that your family is at its safest by going over the escape plan, and even partaking in a drill once or twice a year to keep your younger kids aware. Remember to thank the men and women who are doing their firefighter jobs, risking their lives to ensure the continued well-being of your family. Because in the end, it’s your family and memories that you’ll be saving.