Fire Emergency Procedures for Special Needs Families
Nothing will be more frightening than to face the rapid spread of a fire and not having your established fire emergency procedures can quickly become disastrous. For a special needs family, this decision to act is even more critically important. In fact, it will boggle your mind how fast a small fire can exponentially spread and rapidly pose a serious health threat. Smoke filling a room can fill your lungs robbing you of oxygen. The smoke will be laden with carbon monoxide and that can cause you to become drowsy. Your loved ones could be falling asleep in a fire, poisoned by the carbon monoxide or other contaminants from burning materials.
Please, my friends, don’t let this one slip by unattended. As you work on your fire emergency procedures the primary consideration is to have a plan for getting you and your family out of your home should a fire occur. Kitchen fires are frequent causes of a house fire as we discussed in the post about fire safety. But more alarming to me are the statistics substantiating that many fires occur during the night, while we are sleeping!
Here is a Red Cross Summary of Fire Emergency Issues
Does it surprise you, that in just two short minutes, if you haven’t gotten out of your home, you may not get out! No wonder the fire service emphatically says install and maintain your smoke alarms. Keep them up and running, testing them each month for their functionality and replace them every 10 years. And …
…should an emergency occur…get out and stay out!
Seasonal Hazards Heighten Concerns
Just as a reminder, while there could be many reasons for a fire to start, this time of year heightens the severity of unsafe electrical practices. Like not keeping cords in good shape and overloading outlets, or feeding wires through doors and under rugs. All of these fairly common practices are serious hazards.
This United States Fire Administration pdf document will help highlight these hazards so you can eliminate the risks:
What ARE the Steps to Follow
If you have done your homework, your first line of defense will be your functioning smoke alarm waking you up. But there is not time to spare, the very next thing you must do is call 911 if your smoke alarm system doesn’t automatically call into the fire department. And remember, get out! Get out of your home, get you and your family out as quickly as you can using your well thought out fire emergency procedures. Do you have a map of every room so that you know what your two routes of exit will be? If one exit is compromised determining your two exits will mean you can still get out.
But what if after you touch your door, it’s not hot to the touch (indicating no fire on the opposite side) and you hear cries from your child’s room. NOW, your well thought out procedure will have to be implemented. And NOW you will positively need to protect your lungs! The fire may not have spread so that flames are preventing access to your child’s room but there is going to be smoke and allot of it. On the floor and under the growing and lowering curtain of smoke you will have to crawl to your kids. You do NOT want to be breathing the residue from the smoke as you go to help your children. It can incapacitate you. Protecting your lungs during this scary time will empower you to succeed in implementing your plan to get everyone to safety. So, have you developed your fire emergency procedures?
Here are My Heartfelt Considerations for Your Fire Emergency Procedures
Remember as I stated in my previous fire safety blog, it’s a good idea to go visit your local fire department and engage them in evaluating your procedures. They will have great suggestions for you and perhaps think of things you may not have considered. Their phenomenal help ensures your success.
I sincerely hope you will embrace and act on the following:
- THINK YOUR PLAN THROUGH, get it on paper, and practice it. Repetition … we all know that is the ‘mother of retention’ right? Even more so with special needs children.
- Determine WHO WILL SERVE AS YOUR BACKUP PERSON to help your special needs child if you are unable to get to their bedroom. For instance, another family member in the front part of the house may have to get to our disabled child’s room.
- DEVELOP YOUR PROCEDURES around the following concerns:
a. Is your child mobility impaired? If so what is your backup plan in a fire emergency?
b. Will two people go their bedroom and do a fireman’s carry out of their room?
c. Will one person go to the bedroom and one to their window to assist them in being lowered into someone’s loving arms?
d. Have you secured a rescue ladder if you have two stories?
e. Does everyone have an emergency whistle? Are they trained to use it and practice it during a drill?
f. What if there is smoke? Will you provide a smoke mask for them to ensure there is a cushion of time to ensure they can be rescued?
g. What if they are unconscious?
h. What about their oxygen?
4. GET YOURSELF A SMOKE MASK. If you have time to get to your child’s bedroom because you are sure they haven’t yet escaped (i.e. they are using their rescue whistle or maybe crying for help), you don’t want smoke on your way there to become a barrier to your successfully getting to your special needs child.
Concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) can be so great that it can rapidly overcome you! You will feel sleepy, the CO is not allowing your body to have access to oxygen. The fact is you will be poisoned if you aren’t protecting your lungs. A properly designed and fitting mask or hood will make the difference to your success or, I dare say, potential failure. Make sure to also provide a smoke mask to your alternate rescuer. Consider getting one for your disabled child and teaching them how to use it, too!
We all know that failure is NOT an option here!
Protect Your Lungs
In doing my research, this is the mask, the Xcaper, that I have determined is worth my investment. Please remember that as a former health and safety professional I am intimately familiar with respirators. I have done training in years gone by with firefighters in respiratory protection, once even providing a class to the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA. I do know what I am talking about and hope that you will trust my recommendations because of the experience I have in this field.
Also, the firefighter in this You Tube is explaining the features of this specific mask. The test run involving a smoke-filled room is a good demonstration of the Xcaper mask’s abilities and is very compelling.
What Will You Do? The Steps Are Not Difficult and the Cost Not Prohibitive!
So, you can see that there is an urgent need for us to develop our fire emergency procedures! To not do so just doesn’t make any sense at all. We may have a number of things that will need to be cued up in order to correctly and safely respond should a fire ever occur in our home. But we have to be quick on our feet with the possibility that in 2 minutes our window for escape could close. So a plan is very important and our child’s and families specific needs must be captured in the procedures we develop.
What will you do? Are you going to use the plan template I recommended in my last blog? Will you go to your local firehouse and review the plan with the firefighters there? Are you going to help them to understand your very special person’s needs?
Please let me know how I can help? You can Contact Me Here.
And share with us how your plan is fleshing out in the comment section below.