My son has a habit of starting big conversations when we only have a little bit of time, like during our 2 minute drive to his school in the morning. And when you are 6 years old a lot can be said in 2 minutes. As we were turning the corner, with his school in sight, he tells me that today they are having a fire drill, and they have already had a tornado and lock down drill.
He goes on to say, all in one sentence, “for a fire we leave the school, but for a tornado we go into the hallway and for a lock down we go to the back of the class far from the door and put our heads on the wall so the bad person thinks the room is empty, what do we do if that stuff happens at our house mom?” Now he is looking at me from the back seat, and we are next in the drop off loop, so he unbuckles and hops out of the car as I shout by usual goodbyes. I think to myself that this is a conversation we will need to finish up, and I’m thankful for the extra time to figure out how I’m going to answer him.
I remember having fire drills when I was in school, but we never had tornado or lock down drills. The thought of a lock down drill was what was bothering me the most. I understand that times have changed, as the saying goes, and there are terrible things happening in schools now. The vision of my son practicing hiding in his class room with the lights off and the blinds closed, is enough to make any parent uncomfortable.
But, I understand the responsible thing is to be prepared and know how to respond in an emergency. So I thought I should get informed so I could answer my son’s questions but also to be able to put an emergency plan in place for our home. (Because you know how moms are always board and looking for something to fill our time.) But in all seriousness, would we know what to do if we had a house fire or other emergency?
I was able to find some great resources on our provincial website (Manitoba, Canada) for information on emergency management. It covered possible risks in our area, how to make an emergency plan and what you need to make an emergency kit. The Government of Canada and Department of Homeland Security also had good information with specific resources for kids. I have never searched this topic before and was surprised about how much information was available, but I would caution to be aware of the source and date it was published.
Make a Plan
When my son and I continued our conversation, I thanked him for asking me about our emergency plan, because the truth was we didn’t have one. I think you assume that if there were to be an emergency, you would just do what you have to in that moment and really, what is the likelihood you would be able to follow a plan anyway? But the more I thought about it, I realized that there are not many things I do without having a plan, and that refers to things I do on a regular basis when safety is not the issue! We need a plan! Some points to consider are:
- plan for specific risks
- how to meet or contact one another (you may not be together at the time)
- what exit would you use and where would you go once outside of your home
- designate people to collect important items from your home; pets, necessary medication, identification, vehicle key, emergency kit.
Educate your Family
This also got me thinking about how we would respond to less severe emergencies, like a small kitchen fire, or a medical issue or accident. Would my kids know what to do if the smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector went off? Could they call 9-1-1 if an adult wasn’t able to? Do my husband or I even know how to use a fire extinguisher? As I’m sure you can tell, I was starting to feel overwhelmed and unprepared. So first things first, make a check list.
- Fire extinguishers – We should have one on every floor, know the expiry dates and practice using one.
- Alarms – Show the kids where the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors are and what they sound like
- 9-1-1 – Discuss when and how to call.
- OMG, we don’t have a house phone!!
My husband and I just have our cell phones, which are password or finger print protected. And yes, you can access the phone for an emergency call without having to unlock it, but on my Samsung you still have to push the home button to wake it up, than swipe the screen a certain way, than you can tap the emergency call button.
This process would not be quick and easy for me in an emergency, never mind expecting my kids to be able to do this. It turns out you can plug a phone into a disconnected landline and make a 9-1-1 call. I contacted my phone service provider to double-check and they confirmed it was possible. I also learned that there is an emergency button on our alarm panel, and when pushed your alarm company will attempt to contact you and if there is no answer they will send emergency services right to your home.
It would be a good idea to have your kids practice making a 9-1-1 call through role playing. Help prepare them by going over the questions the dispatcher may ask. Take turns being the caller and dispatcher, and make it fun by making up funny scenarios.
- What is your emergency?
- What is your first and last name?
- What is your address?
Tell them to always stay on the phone and keep talking to the dispatcher until the paramedics or firemen get to the house. I am planning on practicing this with my kids using a landline phone, (not plugged in). I want them to practice actually dialing 9-1-1 than going through some questions with them.
This one question from my son has turned into an opportunity to help my family, which I am very thankful for.
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