Disclaimer: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with the PreK12 Plaza. However, all stories and opinions expressed are my own.
I remember once when I was about 8 or 9 years old, my grandmother was having a party. She had this amazing little tabletop chimes set that had angels on top and candles on the bottom. When you lit the candles, the heat made this little fan spin, causing the little angels to move around and the chimes would tinkle with a faint unearthly, magical sound. So I decided I would use a match so that I could light those little candles and show everyone how amazing the chimes were.
Unfortunately, I had never lit a match before and so I didn't know that when you strike the match on the matchbook, you shouldn't hold it close to the other matches inside. The whole matchbook lit up like a roaring fire and, startled, I dropped it on the floor at my feet.
Luckily, my Tío Pancho, was walking by right at that exact moment and he immediately stepped on the miniature bonfire with his shoe and put out the flame. "What are you doing, girl? Trying to burn down the house?" were his exact words, if I remember correctly.
Fast forward 30 years or so to when my kids and I were driving to the store. My daughter tentatively says to me, "Mom, can I tell you something and you not get upset?"
Those words don't come out of her mouth very often, so when they do, I know I need to listen carefully and control my reactions.
"Remember when we were visiting [our grandparents] in January? Well, [my cousin] and I were upstairs playing in Grammy's sewing room. And we found a box of matches and wondered what it would be like if we lit one. So I did. But I quickly put it out."
Images of that room full of flammable batting, fabrics, transfer papers and more swam before my eyes and I remember turning to her and saying as calmly as I could, "I sure am glad nothing happened to you guys. Can you imagine what would have happened if just one of the fabrics had caught fire? At the worst, we might have lost both of you in a terrible fire. Or Grammy's house might have burned down."
My son piped up, "When I was in the shop once, I found a little box with these little sticks in them. But when I opened the other side they had little red tips and I realized that they were matches so I quickly closed the box and put it back where I found it!"
My daughter gave him a sour look.
The point of me telling you these stories is that no matter how careful we are with matches and other fire starters, our kids have a way of finding them. When I was little no one talked to me about fire safety other than the popular one-liner, "Don't play with matches." I've been careful to talk to my kids about what they should do in those situations, but my daughter proved to me that even when we do talk about the dangers, they may one day find themselves in a situation where they have access to fire starters and their curiosity may or may not burn brighter than their sense of obedience or safety.
That's why I think it is important to talk about these issues starting when they are little. We have to have a plan and hope that by drilling it into them over and over, they'll be more likely to use caution. There are so many ways that children can get burned - or worse - by fire hazards. From matches to candles to fireworks, even cooking with mom or 'Buelita can lead to dangerous situations. One of our big ones is barbecue - those suckers can get bien caliente! And when my kids are running around, I'm always worried that one of them will accidentally run into it or put their hand on it. So we talk about that a lot, too.
I keep two fire extinguishers in my house. One big one in our laundry room, and a smaller one in the pantry in case of a kitchen fire. We also have five smoke alarms: one in each bedroom, one at the top of the stairs and one in the hallway by our bedroom. How many fire extinguishers and smoke alarms do you have? I know they aren't cheap, but they are long-term investments that I'm willing to grit my teeth and purchase knowing I don't have to do it that often. The peace of mind that they give me are worth the price.
When I talk to my kids about fire safety we cover things like:
- What do they do if there is a fire in the house?
- Where will we all meet?
- Where should they go to get help?
- If they suspect a fire on the other side of a door, how do they check without opening it?
- If the room they are in starts to fill with smoke, what should they do?
- What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?
- Do they know how to dial 911 to report a fire? What information will the person need? Do your children know their home address?
If you're looking for resources to start this conversation with your kids, check out some of the resources from PreK12 Plaza, such as this fire safety song:
Or these short videos on fire safety:
|Fire Safety Song|
|Fire Safety Part 1|
|Fire Safety Part 2|