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Safety Plan is key to avoiding tragedy

Fire escape ladderThe best way to protect your children from fire tragedy is to ensure they know exactly what to do if one happens.

Canadian fire safety officials criss-cross the country each year educating school children on simple steps they can take to escape a fire in their home. Here are some of the top tips you can discuss with your children.

Panic is deadly during a home fire. So be sure to tell your children that staying calm and following the family Fire Safety Plan is the best way to prevent injury. Emphasize that trying to hide from a fire is never the right thing to do.

Creating your family's Fire Safety Plan should be a family affair, with everyone contributing ideas and asking questions. This way, children feel a sense of control.

Your family's Fire Safety Plan should include a full understanding of the fire safety equipment in your home, including smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and your fire escape route. Always stress that children should NEVER re-enter a burning or smoldering building - even if that means losing a prized possession or even a pet.

When you test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, have your children present. Research shows that teaching children what a smoke alarm sounds like can help wake them in an emergency situation. Also teach them never to remove a smoke alarm or its batteries to silence a false alarm, as this practice can have deadly consequences.

You may wish to consider installing "talking alarms" that verbally warn of fire or carbon monoxide danger. Studies show that verbal warnings help children respond faster to emergencies.

When it comes to drawing your Escape Plan, instill confidence in your children by creating an escape route they can remember and follow in case of fire. Draw a floor plan that shows all possible exits from each room in your home. Map out a main escape route and an alternate escape route from each room, with increased emphasis on children's bedrooms. Be sure there is no confusion and always select an outside Meeting Place.

Conduct a fire drill at least twice per year and treat the situation as if it were a real fire.

"After the first drill or two, create realistic situations such as blocking off a main route, so family members have to take the alternate path out," advises Carol Heller, a fire safety expert with Kidde Canada, the country's largest fire safety device manufacturer. "Vary people's starting points, from the kitchen to the bedroom to the basement and so on. Do not hold a drill at night until children are comfortable and confident, and let them know before they go to bed that you will hold a drill that night, so they are not unduly frightened."

More child fire safety tips and Escape Plan resources can be found on the web site.