I should know.
I was the overconfident mommy, and boy did I get roasted, toasted and charred during a recent conversation with my preschooler.
The incident was initiated by a study I had just read. Researchers asked a group of children ages 5 to 10 what they would do if they were in a building that caught on fire.
Amazingly, the majority of the kids (nearly 60 percent) said they would remain inside and try to find a grown up or use a phone to contact an adult to help them. Another large group responded that they would hide, and a few responded that they didn’t know what they would do.
Bottom line: Most of the children surveyed didn’t know that when there’s a fire, the first order of business is to get out of the building.
As a parent I found the study’s results rather disturbing. To know that of the 500 students surveyed roughly 300 of them would do something other than leave the vicinity during a fire sent a chill up my spine.
After reading the study I immediately turned to my own daughter to quiz her on fire safety issues knowing full well that she would pass with flying colors. After all, my brother is a veteran firefighter, who has gifted his only niece with a truckload of fire safety books, gadgets and apparel. What’s more, my preschooler has toured more fire stations and ridden in more fire trucks in the last four years than some rescue personnel do in a lifetime. More importantly, I have spent countless hours teaching my daughter how to respond to fires and other emergencies.
So imagine how I felt during the following conversation I initiated while getting my preschooler ready for bed:
ME: Honey, you know what to do if our house caught on fire, right?
ME: What’s the first thing you do?
DAUGHTER: Grab my shield.
ME: Your shield? What shield?
DAUGHTER: My Mulan shield.
She then runs to retrieve the plastic shield that came with her Medieval Warrior dress-up set and proceeds to show me how she would use the shield to protect her from the heat and her sword to battle the flames.
ME: (Gulp!) Okay, but when there’s a REAL fire, what’s your first job?
DAUGHTER: Rescue all my stuffed animals.
ME: Stuffed animals?!
DAUGHTER: Well, I can’t leave them in here and get them burned. I need to stay and protect them.
ME (in my head): OH. MY. WORD!!!
What about all of our family fire safety workshops? What about “Get low and go?” What about our mock fire drills?
How could she have forgotten all she’s been taught about fire safety?
How could I have been so confident in my youngster’s ability to process and retain emergency information?
Burn baby burn!
Clearly, we have a problem.
And lest you think that I take comfort in the fact that according to the survey, 92 percent of parents say they talk to their children about what to do in case of a fire—-I don’t. After all, look at how their children responded. We’re in the same boat, yes. But if that boat goes up in flames, there’s a good possibility our children won’t remember to jump ship.
Experts who reviewed the study’s results suspect that kids might be mixing different messages and getting confused as a result. Children are often told about the importance of calling 911 in emergencies. Experts conclude that maybe kids hear that too much and don’t realize that getting out of a burning building should be their top priority.
So it’s back to the drawing board with my daughter. Though, this time I’m going to try new tactics to get the information on fire safety to stick.
Do you know how your child would respond when quizzed about fire safety? Or do you just think you know?