The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Emergency Training

The headline in the paper stated: “Family Mourns Boys Killed

by Fire They Hid From”. The father could not find the boys aged

2 and 4 because they hid in the closet under a pile of clothes to

escape the blaze. The father walked right past them. It is too

late for this family but not for your family

 

Very young children are concrete thinkers. It is not enough

to tell them to get out of the house quickly in the event of a

fire. You need to show them. Try not to upset and frighten them

when you do this. Model the calm behavior you want them to

display in a crisis.



Start by showing them how to get out of the house quickly.

Take them through the routes they should follow from different

parts of the house. When they are out of the house, show them a

place where they should go to wait for you. This could be a big

tree in your yard or in a next-door neighbor’s yard. Tell them

they are to stay at that place and not to worry about finding

you. You will find them.



Go through the route a second time. This time point out the

places they should not go to hide from the fire. They should not

go under the bed. They should not go into the closet. They

should not hide in the basement and so forth. Point out these

places and tell them not to hide there. The only safe place to

be is outside the house by the designated meeting place.

Some children hide for fear of punishment because they think

they have or really may have started the fire by playing with

matches. Tell them they do not have to worry about how the fire

started, their only job is to get out of the house.



A third time through the routine should be to show them what

not to take with them. They are not to take any of the pets or

animals out of the house. They are not to take any of their

toys. All of these can be replaced, they cannot be replaced.

Repeat again: Their only task is to get out of the house as

quickly as possible. This might sound overly repetitious but it

is not for young concrete thinkers. 

 

In addition, before going on trips with young children, you

need to take them through the steps of what to do if they get

lost. If it is a museum, show them where the main desk is and

tell them what it is called. Say you will meet them there if

they get separated from you. That is where you will be. They

should go up to the guard and ask to be taken to the main desk or

whatever place you have designated.



Show them how to use the telephone to dial 911. They should

know their telephone number and address. You might also show

them the people they should go to for help. These are guards and

policemen and others who work at the places where they are lost.� 

If you are going on a hike or camping trip, take the young

children through the steps of what to do if they get separated

from you. In the mountains, show children how to Hug-a-Tree.

Hugging a tree gives them a feeling of security and comfort. It

also keeps them from wandering around and difficult to find.

Tell them they do not have to find you, you will find them. They

are to stay put. You might also indicate that being lost in the

woods is different from escaping from a fire in the house. In

the woods, you stay put. In a fire in the house, you get out

quickly and go to the designated safe place outside of the house. 

All of this may sound obvious and you may feel you have done

this with your children. Just to make sure, ask them. You may

be surprised to find that they know abstractly what to do but

when presented with concrete situations, they do not have the

solutions. In any case, it is a good idea to go over the

procedures periodically. Children sometimes forget.

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