We do our best to protect our son from the things that could harm him. I spread sunscreen on his fair skin before we go out on sunny days; I make sure he holds my hand and looks both ways before we cross the street.
Apparently my husband is even doing preliminary work to create caution around the need for speed.
The other day, our two-year-old told me, “motorcycles are dangerous.”
I nodded, choking back the laughter.
Yet when it comes to potential dangers in our home, we could do better. We have never talked about the possibility of a fire, nor what we would do if one happened. Our son already hides when he gets scared. Fire-Ed educator Joanne Held says a lot of kids do.
“We’re taught to look under the couches, under the beds, in the fridges, in the ovens, in the closets, in the washing machines, in the dryers,” said Held, chief of the Malakwa, B.C. fire department.
“Kids have been found in dryers. It’s so sad that they don’t know that they can smash the window and jump off the porch roof to get out. They figure that – because of TV – the fire alarm goes off, somebody calls 911 and the fire department is going to be there to save them. We are 15-20 minutes away, sometimes, to get there.”
Held says the most crucial thing parents can do is create a family fire escape plan, which includes two potential exits for everyone in the house. She says parents should make sure that everyone sleeping under the roof knows the plan.
She drives home this point to students by telling them about 10-year-old Nicholas Gabriel. In June 2014, he died in a Brampton townhouse fire while sleeping at a friend’s house.
“Eighteen families got out, but not that 10-year-old boy. They found him 10-feet from the front door and he died because of smoke inhalation. He didn’t know how to get out of his best friend’s house.”
Held says kids also need to know how to dial 911 and provide their full address to the dispatcher.
Held says she doesn’t sugarcoat the facts when she’s teaching kids, but at the same time she leaves them with applicable steps (like homework to complete an escape plan).
It feels like a tough topic to get into at any age, but perhaps I need to shift my perspective. Like sunscreen or watching out for cars, I want to give my son everything he needs to stay safe.