Hopefully everyone remembered to change the batteries in their fire detectors when daylight savings time began a couple of weeks ago. This is a good time to conduct a fire drill with your family also. Fire drills are encouraged throughout scouting programs, from the Lions to Scouts BSA.
When this requirement comes up in the Cub Scout program, it must be done by the family at home. One way to help promote this is to send a handout home with your Cubs. It serves as a reminder that the family needs to do the requirement together and also gives them a starting point. So the list of tips below, while not an all-encompassing list, does lay out a basic plan for conducting a home fire drill.
Before the drill
- Determine how you will leave your dwelling. The most common place you will find yourself is in your bedroom, but you should consider that you might need to escape from a different area. Determine at least two different routes out of the house in case a door is blocked. For two story houses or apartments, determine how you might escape if your route to the first floor is blocked. What about the basement?
- Where will you meet after you escape? Your family should have a set meeting place to gather after you escape. Use a landmark which is clear and everyone can remember, like the giant tree in the neighbor’s yard. It should not be too close to your own house, but it should be close enough that young children can find it. When firefighters arrive, they will want to know if everybody has made it out of your dwelling. If you have a set meeting place, you won’t have to guess. Guessing can needlessly endanger firefighter’s lives and waste time.
- If there are very young children in the family, who will help them escape?
- Draw the plan on a piece of paper. It is good to talk about the plan, but drawing it will reinforce it in memory. Then walk through the plan. This will also reinforce it. During an actual fire there will be chaos, so it is important that the plan really be firm in everyone’s heads. This is a good time to talk about things like staying low to the ground.
The drill itself
- Don’t tell other family members when the drill will take place. And don’t make it easy. Block off a passage or doorway so they need to remember an alternate route.
- Start the fire drill by shouting “Fire drill! Fire drill!”
- Follow the plan! Go to the meeting location and wait.
After the drill
- Review what went well and what didn’t. Did everyone remain calm? Did everyone meet at the right location? Did everyone take the drill seriously or was it treated like a joke?
- Talk about how much more difficult it would be in a real fire. Smoke and darkness could make it very difficult to find the way out. What would make the fire drill more realistic next time? Depending on the ages of the children involved, you could try to find a doorway blindfolded.