The other day, my daughter, Jessica, and I were shopping at Wal-Mart in the town of Villa Rica, GA, when a fire alarm sounded. The din was deafening and the halogen beams from the fire alarms were blinding. As I stood in that check-out line with my hands over my ears, I looked at my daughter and shouted, “I’m a safety professional, the fire alarm is going off and we’re standing here waiting to be checked out. OMG!”
We weren’t the only ones acting this way. Customers and employees alike stopped what they were doing and covered their ears with both hands. Why did we all just stand there? Why didn’t anyone move?
I’d bet that if we were to review the security tapes, we wouldn’t find any folks dashing riot-like out the front door. I mean, Holy Smokes, if this had been an actual emergency, the small town of Villa Rica would have suffered a devastating loss!
What Do We Teach Our Children?
Jessica is 23 and pregnant with her first child. I know I taught her to be safe, yet here we were being totally unsafe together. This got me thinking. Yes, it’s second nature to teach your children about safety at home, but what exactly do we teach them? Generally, we teach our kids to:
- Ensure the yard is free of projectile items before mowing,
- Wear a helmet and pads when riding the bike or skateboarding, and
- Carry pointy objects down when walking.
We teach all the basic safety stuff. But is that enough? Why do we stop there? What happens in an emergency situation outside the home?
Advanced Safety for the Family
Almost everything we teach employees, we should be teaching our children. This includes:
- Emergency Evacuation,
- Hazardous Communication,
- Hearing Conservation, and
- Fire Safety.
Let’s take a look at how to do it.
Your family probably spends a fair amount of time in
- The corner Mexican restaurant
- The indoor soccer field, or
Take a look at these venues and ask yourself the following questions?
- Do you or your kids know where the emergency exits are located?
- Do they know that in an emergency their first priority is to get out of the building—not run around looking for you or other family members?
- Have you driven around the outside of the building at least once to familiarize them to the area they may have to exit from?
- Do you see a direct unobstructed path from the exit door to a safe spot?
- Are there stairs? If you have someone in a wheelchair or on crutches you best make sure you know what you are dealing with before there’s an emergency.
- Do your small children understand what the lighted EXIT sign means? (Do they also understand that if pushed open when there is no emergency, an alarm will sound!?)
Scenario: It’s Saturday and you’re at the mall with your daughter and her friends. You head to Dillard’s; they head to Abercrombie & Fitch. The plan is to meet up at the food court at 2:00.
However, at 1:05:
- Shots are heard,
- There’s been an explosion
- A fire has broken out, or
The mall is turned upside down, with people running everywhere not knowing what to do. It’s a safe bet that in this type of situation, your car is your best safe meeting place.
But did you designate the vehicle as your “safe meeting place”? And, in an emergency, who remembers where they parked the car?
Make it a point of announcing where you park and then re-enforcing the information with a parking statement. For example, with smaller children, you could say: “I parked in Row C. WOW. I parked in row C and my name is Carrie,” or “Look at that! We parked our car directly in front of the letter P in Piggly Wiggly.”
Sometimes you have to get corny and embarrass your teenagers to get the point across. For example, say aloud “I parked in front of the jewelry store” and then turn to one of your kids, point and say, “YOU are the JEWEL of my eye.”
They may boo you, but in a frazzled state they’ll be more likely to remember where the car is parked.
Have you ever walked into your bathroom at home and been so overpowered by the smell of chemicals that you had to open the window? To clean the room, your daughter used cleanser, toilet cleaner, bleach and Windex. You’re grateful she didn’t pass out. You make a mental note to speak with her about mixing cleaners, but life gets in the way. Or have you ever seen a bottle of Lysol kitchen cleaner sitting on top of your gas stove with the dish-rag on top? It wasn’t left there on purpose—it was just left.
Most kids don’t know that using more than one cleaner at a time can cause harmful fumes that can overtake them, even kill them, or cause an explosion when exposed to certain elements. It’s important to teach our kids about the ramifications of working with chemicals in and around the home.
According to Theresa Schulz, a past president of the National Hearing Conservation Association, “Two monster truck shows in Virginia and Indiana were measured in the stands at 97 and 94 decibels, respectively. The maximum decibel levels during the shows were 122 and 118, respectively.” That’s a lot of loud.
Whether it’s a monster truck rally or a major sporting event, there is absolutely no reason why you as a parent can’t protect your child’s hearing by enforcing the use of headphones or earplugs.
For most of us, it’s not feasible to start a fire in the backyard to teach our children how to put one out. However, you can pull out the extinguisher (You do have one, don’t you?), let the kids get the feel of it and verbally explain PASS.
We teach our kids to look both ways when they cross the street, to sing “Happy Birthday” when they wash their hands and to buckle up when they ride in a vehicle. But don’t stop there. If we truly want our children to have good safety habits, we need to teach them skills beyond the basics. Look to your workplace safety program and bring those lessons home. And remember, when teaching your kids about fire safety, teach them to MOVE when they hear a fire alarm!