October is National Fire Safety Month – Make Sure Your Family is Prepared

Discovery Place Kids Huntersville

We all want our summer to be hot… but not necessarily on fire.

Preparing your kids for what to do if there’s a fire is something you can start at an early age. Below are a few tips, including some advice direct from the Huntersville Fire Department about how to prevent fires, what to do if your family experiences one, and some special tips for the Lake Norman area.

Don’t be a fire starter

The number one reason a fire that involves children even starts is because the kids were playing with matches or a lighter.

Keep anything that can spark interest in starting a fire out of reach of little hands.

Also, take the time to have a conversation with your kids about what’s appropriate when it comes to fire-related activities such as lighting the grill or hanging out by the fire pit.

“Start talking to kids about fire safety in the home as early as possible, we (Huntersville Fire Dept.) begin hitting kids up about it as early as rising kindergartners,” says Bill Suthard, firefighter/EMT, and public information officer for the Huntersville Fire Department.

Get plugged in the right way

Admittedly many toddlers can work smart devices better than adults, and most households have more than one device to charge. ‘Over plugging’ of devices is a fire hazard.

Suthard reminds parents to always plug devices into an actual outlet or a surge protector.

“Avoid using extension cords and remember, extension cords are used for temporary power issues only. They're never a permanent solution,” he says.

Know when to run and when to roll

Stop, drop and roll is still the go-to, but only if you are on fire. If you run when your clothing has caught ablaze, you will only fuel the flames. Talking frequently and demonstrating to your kids how to stop, drop, and roll – may help them to fight the instinct to run when they instead should roll.

It is also important to teach them when to run. Should there be a fire at your home, the best thing you can teach your kids to do is to get out of the house. “Kddos are scared, a fire incident is very scary, but the best thing you can do is get out of the house, not stay and hide,” Suthard says.

Also teach your kids to alert other family members of a fire by screaming as they run out of the house. Make sure they know to leave quickly and empty handed - no toys, and not even pets.

Have a plan

Having an exit plan in place is essential. Make it fun by drawing together as a family your best route out of the house. The fire department has maps you can use to get you started if need be.

“Have an open dialogue about the smoke alarms, fire escape planning and actually practice your escape regularly,” Suthard says.

Sleep with bedroom doors closed

This one may be particularly tough for families with young children. In many households, nights are filled with a game of musical beds, numerous trips to the bathroom, bad-dream soothing and constant calling out just to make sure ‘you’re still there.’ None of these nighttime activities is conducive to closed doors.

But, Suthard says sleeping with the door closed is really a game changer.

“If a fire were to break out, the bedroom door will hold back fire for an extended period of time. It holds back fire, heat and carbon monoxide, enabling those inside to live that much longer. We are strong proponents of sleeping with the door closed,” he explains.

Confidence to call 911

Show your child the steps for calling 911 on your mobile phone. Make sure they know how to unlock it.

Make sure your child can say their first and last name, and for older kids also their street address.
(Some 911 centers don't have the ability to automatically locate a caller, so it’s important to teach children to identify a location even by buildings, signs or other landmarks.)

Go over your mobile phone's keypad several times to help your child become familiar with making a call, and the reasons or situation to call.

Drive better to save lives

One of the best ways to save lives may not be what you typically think. Suthard says the fire station’s number one problem when responding to a fire is distracted drivers.

“Drivers on the phone, texting, ear buds and even people putting on make-up – no matter how bright our lights are and how loud our sirens are, distracted drivers do not yield to us,” he says.

This is a particular problem at the moment with the construction on I-77 and many drivers seeking alternative routes and backroads in the Lake Norman area.

And, while you’re working on being a better driver also think about where you park. The second biggest challenge when responding to a fire in Huntersville is where cars are parked, especially in neighborhood. “Cars park directly across from each other on the roadways and our vehicles can’t fit through,” Suthard says. “There are times when we even have to back-up, which delays our time in arriving at the fire.”

When you park take a moment to observe if there was an emergency could a truck fit through the space.

Also, be mindful not to park or even pause in fire lanes no matter how hard it may be to find a parking spot or how quick you think your passenger may be while running into the store.

Have a wanna-be firefighter in the house?

Role play is a valuable tool. The full-size firetruck in the Museum is one of our most popular exhibits. Kids can don jackets and helmets and be in control at the wheel, as they sound sirens and ‘save lives.’

Suthard also encourages little ones to drop by the Huntersville Fire Station (right next to the Museum).

“Our doors are always open and we welcome visits from families. If you're bringing a bigger group, we ask that you call ahead... otherwise you are always welcome to tour the station, see the trucks and learn some fire safety,” he says.

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