Fire Safety Tips for Families with Special Needs Children
Fire safety is something every family needs to take seriously, and families with special needs children are no exception. There are three basic components for fire safety in the home; planning, teaching, and practice.
First and foremost, ensure that there are working smoke detectors throughout the home and in sleeping spaces. Test them monthly and replace the batteries every six months. Also, have working Carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of your home. Additionally, make sure all bedroom doors are closed at night, this is the safest way to sleep.
Have planned escape routes for your home, including two ways out. If your child has physical limitations, have a plan on how and who is going to move them. Having your child’s bedroom on the first floor will make it easier to remove them if they have to be carried or dragged. This website has a wonderful video that explains how to get an immobile child out of the house in a fire: www.safekids.org/video/fire-safety-families-children-who-are-immobile.
Teach your children how to feel the door and door knob to see if it’s hot before leaving their room during a fire. If the door is hot they should stay in their room. Also, explain to them that during a fire the smoke may become very thick making it hard for them to see, and show them how to crawl to safety. Finally, teach their siblings how to call for help (dial 911) once they are safely out of the home. Your Rett child may not be capable of doing any of these tasks; however, it is important that these things are explained to them to lessen anxiety should a fire occur.
Just like in school, your family should practice the escape plan monthly – know who is going to be responsible with assisting your child to escape the home, and who will do that job if the primary person is not home. Know where your meeting place is once they are out of the home, and finally, know how to call 911 for help once they are safely out of the home.
It is recommended that you contact your local fire department to determine if they have a program or system that identifies homes and families with special needs. In many fire departments, the dispatch system has computer aided dispatch. Any address where there are special hazards or needs is immediately relayed to responding units. This ensures the responding firefighters are aware of the special needs child in the home, and what type of resources they may need to ensure a positive outcome for all involved.
For additional resources for fire safety tips and planning for children with special needs please visit the following sites:
US Fire Administration: www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/disabilities.html
Indiana University: https://safetystore.iu.edu