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.