Fire Safety and Special Needs Children

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Every year during the month of October here in the United States communities address fire safety, but the subject of fire safety and special needs children carries with it an urgent necessity far beyond the one week dedicated to fire prevention.  Did you know, that of the many home fires responded to by a local fire department the majority of them started as a kitchen fire?  And how many of us know this disturbing fact…that often a fire emergency happens when everyone is asleep?  You and your ‘special needs’ child may sleep in different parts of your home and getting to them to remove them from danger might prove to be impossible because of where a fire has started in your home.  Now that is a scary, scary thought.

The National Fire Adminsitration says "Fire is Everyone's Fight" So Plan and Prepare!

The National Fire Administration says “Fire is Everyone’s Fight”  So Plan and Prepare!  Then exercise your plan you have prepared! (Image courtesy the NFA – www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention)

So …today’s post is going to share some of the wisdom from the fire industry to help us make a plan.  And with that plan to hopefully ensure the safety of each member in our household.  We will address the major considerations in a home fire and offer some suggestions for keeping our arms around the hazards because we’d much rather ensure our arms are around our kids.

I spent 7 years serving a local fire district as their Board Chairperson.  And my career has been safety and health for 20 + years. So you can say I have learned a thing or two about fires.  And one of the most disturbing things is how rapidly it will spread.  It does so exponentially!  That means that once the fire gets going it will rapidly expand with the increase of the fire load and heat generation.  It is scary how quickly the fire can, and does become unmanageable.  It’s fast!  And will quickly become a life-threatening situation!  You may only have two precious minutes to get yourself and your loved ones out and to a safe place.

Here is my personal concern.  My kitchen shares a wall with my master bedroom at the back of my home.  The rest of the bedrooms are down a foyer to the front of the house.  I know if a fire starts in my kitchen I’ll get notified quickly because of the alarms in my house, but I probably won’t be able to get to my daughter’s bedroom down the hall and past the kitchen, not if the fire has spread into my hall.  I have a plan now after considering the possibilities.  Consider your circumstances.  What are the hazards and what issues do you face when preparing to respond to a fire in your home?  Here are the top five fire hazards to keep your eye on in the home:

Fire Safety and Special Needs Children

Fire Prevention Week is over. This year’s message will never be over!

• Something goes wrong in the kitchen; toaster fire, food left unattended/forgotten, a cooking oil fire.  Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen.  Please NO WATER on a kitchen fire…it will spread it further and more quickly.
• Heating equipment not maintained or kept clean like a chimney that has creosote build-up.  And portable heaters too close to curtains or beds, that sort of thing.
• Candles.  Think a lit candle too close to curtains or left unattended, like when a teen falls asleep with that candle burning.
• Electrical equipment frayed cords, damaged plugs, cords under heavy furniture or rugs, overuse of outlets, and overuse of extension cords.  These all have resulted in an average of 47,800 home fires per year.
• Failure of a smoke alarm.  Three out of five home fire deaths occurred where there was no smoke alarm or a smoke alarm that had dead batteries.

 

 

The key here is a WORKING fire alarm!  Statistically fire deaths from home fires continue to occur.  WHY?  The fire alarm did not sound off because it malfunctioned or had a dead battery.

What does a good parent do anyway?

Remember this motto: FIRE IS EVERYONE’S FIGHT!

We really cannot afford to have any other mindset, but realistically we cannot in many special needs scenarios, have our children thinking they can fight a fire.  No one should actually fight a fire, that should be left to the emergency responders. The point here is that in a team everyone has a role to play and our family can step it up to ensure every member is performing a positive action to prevent fires and to respond by making safe decisions in a fire emergency.

Fire Safety and Special Needs Children

Fire IS Everyone’s Fight

A CRITICAL STEP!

Develop a fire evacuation plan and then drill to it. Exercising the plan puts everyone in the right frame of mind should an emergency occur. Emergencies have a way of stalling the thinking processes. Panic! Panic is crippling. So it is in my opinion even more important for us to exercise our plan because of how thinking can in essence become disabled. Whatever your child’s disability exercising what we will do could make the difference.  USE THIS REFERENCE IN DEVELOPING YOUR PLAN.

http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/escape-planning/basic-fire-escape-planning

In this resource from the National Fire Protection Association you will find a grid that can serve as a map for your house. Remember to make two exits from every room and ensure any exit barriers are cleared up and out of the way.

Special Issues Because of the Disabilites in Our Home

There are so many issues to be concerned about with our special needs children. And yes, it is our job to do what we can to prevent things from unraveling.  But when an autistic child will hide from the noise and the bustle of a house that has become frightening you can see why our thinking ahead and establishing a plan is critical.  It’s just so very critical!  No matter what the special need, there are going to be special plans that will have to be established.

Fire Safety and Special Needs Children

Precious Children Priceless Lives

What if you have a child in a wheelchair, on oxygen, cannot hear, or cannot speak to yell for help!  It makes me crazy worried what that will look like for you.  But I can tell you that every fire department I have ever interacted with and every fire-fighter I have ever known is going to welcome your visit to their fire station.  You should drop in on them and come with questions and concerns for the safety of your household.

Also, there are agency lists that are becoming more prevalent where you can register your home as having a special needs person living there.  And there are fire agencies acutely aware of the challenges of conducting a rescue of special needs children and their possible penchant to hide rather than to call out for help.

You’ve heard of Dive-Dive-Dive…well we are saying here….DRILL-DRILL-DRILL

So please, let’s develop our fire safety skills and create a fire escape plan and let’s drill, drill, drill until our loved ones react without thinking, without coaxing, so they can get to the safe prearranged family meeting place.  And here is a YouTube video for children that teaches fire safety principles and practices (14 minutes long).  I especially liked the part that teaches them that a firefighter can look scary in their gear, the face-mask, helmets and all.  Even the sound of the compressed air they are breathing could be alarming to a child with sensory issues.   We can help them not be so afraid by showing them this video.

 

I suggest using this video as part of your family plan and education.

And if you go to this link, http://www.sparky.org/ you will find fun facts, games, and things like ecards just for kids to help in your educational efforts.

In an upcoming blog I will make some recommendations for mobility, sight, or hearing impaired children.  Please come back to find out what I have pulled together for you that I hope you’ll find helpful.

Our children drill for fire emergencies at their schools. We drill for fire emergencies in our place of employment.  Our families need to conduct drills too.  Create your fire evacuation plan.  Arrange a safe place away from the harm that the fire will become. Don’t try to fight a fire, it grows exponentially.  Get out and stay out. And as hard as this will be to remember, remember that you have to take care of yourself first if you are going to be able to care for your disabled child.  Like on an airplane in an emergency, oxygen mask on you first, then your child.  Get yourself out first and have a plan to get to them in their room.  I will share more about this in an upcoming blog.

Do you have a question or concern?  Then by all means you can Contact Me Here.  I will get back to you as soon as possible, sometimes within just a few hours, minutes if I am online working in the blog.

Drop Us a Comment! Or Share Your Story. We Will All Benefit From Your Generosity.

Drop Us a Comment! Or Share Your Story. We Will All Benefit From Your Generosity.

 

 

And if you have a story you’d like to share with us about how you have created a safe haven and prepared your family for fire emergencies then…

…please do leave a comment.

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